17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. . Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Candidates - Political Advertisements. Mr. MORGAN. - Is the Minister for Information aware of a plot that is being hatched to betray true-blue Labourites, as well as blue-blooded Liberals, at the forthcoming general elections, by which Liberal party bosses in Kew South’ Wales propose to sacrifice some of their much advertised “ new blood “ for the purpose of administering a blood transfusion to the dying and decrepit body of Langism? Is the Minister further aware that this unholy ‘alliance has been conceived in the office df J. “Walter Thompson and Company, an overseas big-business advertising firm with international ramifications, which lately has been dabbling in the internal politics of this country? Will the Minister investigate the activities of this firm, and the reason for its interest in Australian politics?
-The right honorable gentleman may have’ been more fortunate than I was. I say frankly that- half the question was lost -by me because of the interruption that occurred while it was being asked. I deprecate questions which involve propaganda. The submission pf such questions is not confined to members on one side of the House.
– I did’ not say that it is.
– I have endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to’ keep questions within the scope of the Standing Orders ; that is- to say, they must not introduce debate, or invite debate from .the Minister. I do not’ think that I can rule this question out of order, although it is. of a class which I believe should not be asked. .
– Apparently, it. has been left to me to deal with those portions of the questions which seek to elicit information, and to avoid those portions of it which, in the opinion of some honorable members, may savour of ‘propaganda. The firm of J. Walter Thompson and Company has been engaged in a great .deal of political activity in this country. An employee of that firm; named Blaxland, has been endorsed as the Liberal candidate in opposition to the’ honorable member for Reid at the next general elections. Representatives of J. Walter- Thompson and Company, and some persons associated with the Century - Mr. Paddison, for one, and Mr. George McAuley for another - are at present touring America ; together, I understand. The honorable member for Reid is therefore entitled to believe that there is a conspiracy on foot, and that it is associated with .the introduction to this country of some rather disreputable newspaper propaganda from the United States of Amenca. I advise the honorable’ member not to worry too much about the new blood in the Liberal party ; because the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) had a look at them some little time ago, after he had decided to retire from politics.
– Order ! The Minister is getting off the line of the question.
– I conclude by saying that the honorable member for Parramatta, having had a look at the new blood in the Liberal party, said that it” was not worth 2d. a gallon.
– Has the Prime Minister received a request from the Government of Queensland -soliciting assistance for primary producers in southern Queensland in either the dairying or the grazing industries? If not, can the right honorable gentleman indicate his attitude to the request for subsidy made to him by the Mundubbera Shire Council on behalf of dairymen in that district?
– I have no recollection of any request having been made to me by the Government of Queensland on the subject of subsidies to primary producers. I have been approached by somebody about the matter, and I have asked for inquiry to be made as to whether any correspondence has been received regarding it. I shall give a further reply to the honorable member when that investigation has taken place. I shall look into the request by the Mundubbera Shire Council for a subsidy.
OFFER op Historic Stone.
– Will you, Mr. Speaker, inform the House whether an offer has been made to this Parliament of a stone from that part of the. British House of Commons which was destroyed by Nazi air attack? I understand that the offer of this stone has been made in a public-spirited manner by Mr. W. A. Crowle, of Sydney, who purchased several of these stones when they were sold by the Government of Great Britain in aid of patriotic funds. The stone which has been offered bears a bronze tablet affixed by the British authorities certifying to its origin, and is engraved with the words “ Lest we forget “. If this offer has been received by you, are you able to inform the House whether it is possible to accept the stone, and to have it given an honoured place in this building? In considering the offer, will regard be paid to the following points: - First, the stone would be a worthy addition to the collection of historical objects in this Parliament House; secondly, its presence here would be a reminder of, the direct link between this Parliament and. the Mother of Parliaments, and a reminder also of the passion for personal freedom and equal justice for every citizen, which has marked British parliamentary history; finally, possession of this stone would be in accord with Australian affection for, and pride in, our British kinsmen, and it would be a daily witness to the courage and patience with which the British people fought and endured in the days when the British Commonwealth of Nations stood alone against Nazi aggression ?
– Such an offer was made, originally, I. think, through the Prime Minister’s Department to the presiding officers of this Parliament. “We were aware of the historic value of the stone, and the patriotic gesture that Mr. Crowle was making; but we considered that, in view of the fact that some relics had already been received by this
Parliament during a previous reconstruction of the House of Commons, the whole matter ought to be placed ‘before the Joint House Committee. With that end in view, the Joint House Committee will meet, probably within the next fortnight, and decide whether to accept thestone, or suggest some other place where it could be preserved as a historic relic.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Australian Government has received a guarantee that. Empire preference will not be jeopardized . as the result of the American loan to Great Britain?
– I am not aware of any definite agreement about the matter. It is true that, in the course of a discussion in the House of, Commons while Mr. Churchill was Prime Minister, he said, in general terms, that imperial preference was not involved in lend-lease arrangements. I have previously assured the. House that the Commonwealth Government will do its best to preserve Empire preference.
– Does the Government intended to recognize, by the issue of a ribbon or medal, the services, so generously given, of the Volunteer Defence Corps during the war. I understand thatthe Government of the United Kingdom has issued medals to members of the Home Guard.
– The Defence Department is at present considering this matter, but I do not think that a decision has yet been reached. The Government fully appreciates the splendid service rendered by the Volunteer Defence Corps in the darkest hours of Australia’s history, and I believe that members of the force shouldreceive some suitable recognition, perhaps of the kind suggested by the honorable member.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health . and Social Services about a treatment which has been evolved for heart disease.
By way of preface I quote the following extract from the Sunday Sun, of the 14th July:-
Heart Sufferers Clutched at the New Vitamin E Lifeline.
The four Canadian doctors who claim to have discovered a treatment for heart disease which reduces it from a major to a minor killer have been flooded with letters and telephone calls seeking information.
Does the Minister know whether vitamin E has proved as effective in the treatment of heart disease as has been claimed ? If he has no knowledgeof the matter, will he make inquiries about it?
– I know nothing of the matter, but I understand that the Minister for Health has discussed the new treatment with the Commonwealth health authorities. I shall bring the honorable member’s question to his notice.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is true that a conference was held in Canberra last week, attended by representatives of the wool-growers and of the Government, to discuss the disposal of £7,000,000 representing the profit on wool sold to the Government of the United Kingdom? If so, were the growers’ representatives satisfied with the Government’s suggestion for the disposal of this fund? Are the woolgrowers to be given the profits to which they are entitled, or any portion of them?
– Last week the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Minister for Post-warReconstruction, and myself, met representatives of the wool-growers at Canberra, and discussed with them the disposal of a sum in excess of £7,000,000 that has accumulated as the result of the operations of the Central Wool Committee. The honorable member raises a debatable point when he asks whether the wool-growers will get the benefits to which they are entitled. I could debate that question at some length, but it will be sufficient for me now to say. that I do not think that the wool-growers are entirely satisfied with the proposals put before them by the Government, as they have made representations for some variations of the proposals to be brought before the Parliament. Legislation will be introduced shortly to give effect to the Government’s policy, and a full opportunity will then be given to discuss it.
– Some time ago there appeared in sections of the Sydney press, and I assume also in newspapers published in other capital cities, a statement that the Dutch vessel Piet Hein had taken foodstuffs to certain northern ports, including Thursday Island. The subject was revived in the Melbourne Herald of the 15th July, in the following terms : -
Who ordered the Dutch destroyer Piet Hein to call at Brisbane and pick up food for Thursday Island?
To-day, one week after an announcement by the Netherlands East Indies Information Service that the vessel had been ordered to do so by the “ Australian authorities “, this question was answered.
According to the Information Service and the Dutch Consulate in Melbourne, the request came from the Australian naval authorities in Brisbane, who asked the master of the Piet Hein, then under a “black ban “ by Australian unionists, to pick up the food.
The destroyer is now on its way back to the East Indies, and is believed to be near Darwin.
Has the Minister for the Navy seen the report, and can he say whether there is any truth at all in the statement ?
– I have had reason to order a complete investigation of public statements that have been made concerning this matter, and I am able to say that there is no truth whatever in declarations which allegedly have emanated from a source described as the official spokesman for the Dutch authorities. As late as this morning I had a further check made, and I can say positively that the Australian naval authorities have no knowledge whatever of any such request as has been reported in the press having been made for the services of the Piet Hein. As evidence that such a request would have been a strange one for them to make, I point out that the naval authorities state that because no fueling facilities are available at Thursday Island, the Piet Hein carried sufficient fuel to complete the trip to Darwin without re-fuelling en route. The first reports which appeared on this subject indicated that the Piet Hein was a mercy ship carrying foodstuffs to Thursday Island. They were proved to be wrong. Later, it was reported that the vessel carried two crates for that destination, but that, too, was proved to be incorrect. A subsequent statement was to the effect that the ship carried certain fodder supplies to Darwin for His Royal Highness the Governor-General. I understand that that also is incorrect. The latest report to which the honorable member has referred is equally unfounded.
– Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction aware* that many ex-servicemen, students of satisfactory standing at the Sydney University, the Teachers Training College, and other educational institutions, are now being refused re-establishment training, although on the recommendation of Post-war Reconstruction officials and the Universities Commission, they have already completed a six months’ preparatory course? Further, is the Minister aware that many of these ex-servicemen have expended their deferred pay, and that cases of hardship among them have been brought to the notice of the authorities? Will he say why these men have been refused training after having been assured that they were eligible to receive it? Will some effort be made by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction to see that these men are given the opportunity to complete their training in accordance with the original assurances, and to ensure that misleading and harmful advice is not given in the future to young ex-servicemen anxious to secure training for their intended careers?
– I am not aware that any one has been refused reconstruction training under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. At the present time there are 12,000 exservicemen and women enjoying reconstruction training of a university character. I shall cause an examination to be made to ascertain whether any of the complaints made by the honorable member are justified.
– In view of the fact that the Delamere, a steamer built at the Whyalla Shipyards, and which incidently - as is the case of all other ships built there - is a credit to the workers and to all concerned in the industry at the modern shipyards established at Whyalla, irrespective of the fact that members of the Opposition desire to see ship-building cease in Australia for some reason best known to themselves–
– Order. The honorable member may not, during the asking of a question, debate the ship-building industry, or traverse the views of those who favour or oppose its continuance.
– Should the Delamere lift a cargo of cement from Davenport, Tasmania, to South Australia, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping ascertain whether it is possible for that vessel to be then directed to Port Kembla and to take to South Australia a full cargo of galvanized iron and other building materials so urgently required for the building industry in that State?
– I acknowledge the very deep interest the honorable member has taken in the matter of securing for South Australia adequate supplies of building materials. I shall discuss with my colleague the Minister for Supply and Shipping the possibility of making that vessel available in addition to those that have already been assigned for the purpose of transporting urgently required building materials to South Australia.
Mr.HADLEY. - Will the Minister for the Army take action to see that the committee of Army officers and departmental officials recently appointed by him to expedite the discharges of men still in the forces carries out its duties with the least possible delay, so as to help the men concerned and the industries where employment is waiting for them ?
– The committee to which the honorable member has referred, which was only recently established, consists of Mr. F. R. Sinclair, Secretary, Department of the Army; the AdjutantGeneral, Major-General Clowes; and Lieutenant-General Savige, together with an executive officer. The duties of the committee will be to inspect all Army establishments with a view to expediting -the discharge of all those who may be spared. I have no doubt that as the result -of the committee’s work there will be an acceleration of discharges among those whose services are no longer required.
– In view of the interest among servicemen and the public generally is what has become known as the Major Cousens case, and in view of the long delay in reaching a decision in that case, will the Acting AttorneyGeneral inform the House whether Major Cousens is shortly to be brought to trial?
– The .Government bates more than anybody else long delays in cases in which charges are hanging over somebody’s head. However, the Cousens case is unique. There has never before been such a case in Australia, I am glad to say. First, as I have, said previously in this House, the incidents relating tq the case happened in .Tokyo and the people who made the allegations are Japanese and Americans. None of them had to come to Australia. The first problem to decide, when the case was handed to the Attorney-General, was whether there was any jurisdiction in Australia to handle it. Having settled that question more or less positively, attention was then concentrated on locating the witnesses - two Japanese, one male and one female, and one American. They were located. They then had to be asked to come to Australia, . because there was no power to bring them here against their will. They agreed to come, and they are in Australia now. This week they will be interrogated in order to ascertain whether they will repeat the allegations they made in Tokyo. If they do so, the case will go on without, any further delay and, I hope, will be disposed of before the end of the month.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is correct that before the war Australia had almost a monopoly of the flour trade to the Netherlands East Indies? Is it also correct that this trade has been completely lost by Australia to the United States of America and Canada as the result of the waterside workers’ ban on Dutch ships trading to Australia? What was the annual value to Australia of the trade so lost?
– The allocation of flour exported from Australia is under the sole direction of the British Ministry pf Food, and all exports have been . forwarded to destinations as directed by that body. Offhand, I cannot say what was the value of flour previously exported to the Netherlands East Indies. I shall obtain that information for the honorable member.
– As numbers of mines laid down, during the war have broken from their moorings - some have been washed up on beaches’ and others have been found floating in shipping lanes in northern waters - will the Minister for the Navy inform the House what steps are being taken to remove this serious menace to life, property and shipping?
– Perhaps, it will interest the honorable member to learn that on the 6th March last the superintendent of the Lockhart Mission Station reported to the naval officer in charge at Townsville that’ a mine had been sighted near Cape Direction. Naval personnel were immediately despatched to that locality to render the mine harmless. The Department of the Navy is undertaking mine-sweeping in all Australian waters where mines are located in order to’ render these waters absolutely safe for shipping.
Allegations by Mr. Maloney.
– Has the Acting AttorneyGeneral seen the report in Queensland newspapers of a speech by the former Australian Minister to Moscow, Mr. Maloney, in which he stated that Communists in Australia were directed from Moscow ? If so, in view of the way in which Australian Communists have fomented strikes and caused widespread industrial trouble will the Acting AttorneyGeneral inform the House if the Government has any information to confirm Mr. Maloney’s statement? If not. will he make immediate inquiries and make a statement on the matter to the House this week?
– I have not seen the. report to which the honorable member refers; and I have not had any conversation with Mr. Maloney on the subject. I shall- read the report, and after I have considered it I shall decide whether to make a statement to the House on the matter.
Tuggerah Air Strip - Launceston Arn Port
– Can the Minister for Air say whether use of the Tuggerah air strip is to be discontinued, and whether the strip is to be broken up ? Does the Minister realize the urgent need of growers in the Gosford district for the provision pf air freight to market their early bean and other crops in other States? Will he inquire whether the Tuggerah air strip can be used for this purpose; if it can, will he take steps to retain it with a view to meeting the needs of both growers and consumers of the crops ?
– I understand that the Tuggerah air strip is one of a number of air strips which were utilized by the Royal Australian Air Force during the war. I have no information as to whether it is intended to discontinue using it, or whether the gravel on the runway is to be taken away. I shall make inquiries in order to see whether the strip can be used by aircraft to bring early beans and other vegetables to market. I shall give sympathetic consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– In view of the difficulties that are being experienced at the Launceston airport, Western Junction, and the reported opposition, of the owner of Valley Field to the use of the air-strip constructed there for the Royal Australian Air Force, will the Minister for Air have the position examined as early as possible to ascertain whether or not there is a better site closer to Launceston, such as Prospect, which could provide a permanent airport to accommodate all classes of modern aircraft?-
– Excessive rain caused some temporary difficulties at Western Junction, but I am informed that the field was again in use yesterday, and also that there was no evidence to support the newspaper allegation that cattle had been driven on to the airstrip at Valley Field to prevent aircraft from landing there. I undertake to have an examination made of the honorable member’s proposal that an endeavour be made to find a more suitable site closed to Launceston, but I understand that before Western Junction was chosen as Launceston’s airport, all other likely areas in the vicinity of that .city were examined.
– Oan the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give any reason for the delay in reaching a decision on the -future of the apple and pear acquisition scheme ? Does he know that the orchardists of Tasmania are very much concerned as to the future of the scheme, and are anxiously awaiting the decision whether it, is to be summarily abolished or con”tinued until the shipping position will permit of the resumption of normal export trade?
– I do not know that I should assign any reason for the delay. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), who is keenly interested in the apple and pear industry in Tasmania, has been assisting me in investigation of a complete acquisition plan that will, aS nearly as possible, coincide with the wishes of the apple and pear growers of Tasmania and Western Australia. I assure the honorable gentleman that the interest* of Tasmania have not been neglected.
Utilization of Waters
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say what stage has been reached in the negotiations regarding the utilization of the water of the Snowy River? I ask the question because of the deep interest of landowners in southern New South Wales.
– Discussions extending over a considerable period have taken place between the Governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and
Victoria on the utilization of the water of the’ Snowy River. As I see it, all three governments have rights to the water, the Commonwealth Government by virtue of ar agreement with the State of New South Wales dating from, I think, 1910, the Government of New South Wales because the upper and middle reaches of the river are in New South Wales, and the Government of Victoria because the lower reaches of the river are in that -State. The proposal of the Government of New South Wales is that the water be diverted into the Murrumbidgee for irrigation purposes in its lower reaches. The Government of Victoria, however, claims that it should be diverted to the river Murray and that thereby a great volume of electricity could be generated. Indeed, I am informed that the volume of electricity so generated would be as great as tb at generated at Yallourn, and that after the generation of electricity the water could be used for irrigation in the river Murray valley itself. All three governments have agreed that the Commonwealth Government shall investigate the relative costs of the two schemes and . that a report be made to the three parties within six months of the date of the conference held in Canberra about three weeks ago.-
– In view of the reported statement by the Minister for Supply and Shipping that he proposes to ask the Cabinet to agree to disciplinary action against the coal-miners, will the Prime Minister state whether the proposed action is to be a request to the miners’ federation for the reimposition of ; the “ Canberra code “, or does the Government itself intend to take action to lift coal production by practical disciplinary action, and, if so, when?
– The setting up of a new authority to control the production and distribution of coal is being discussed with the Government of New South Wales. No doubt some of the aspects mentioned by the honorable member will be considered. Legislation dealing with the coal-mining industry is now being prepared, and when it comes before Parliament, a full opportunity will be given to all honorable members to discuss these matters.
Proceeds of Sales
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make the statement that he promised to the House several weeks ago indicating the account,- or accounts, into which the large sums of money now accruing to the Commonwealth from the sale of war goods by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission are being paid?
Mi-.’ CHIFLEY.- I regret if I have been somewhat remiss in supplying the information sought. The matter is one that may be discussed during the debate on the financial statement that I tabled in this chamber on Friday last, but I shall inquire whether some, information can be made available to the honorable member earlier.
Effect of American Loan to Britain
– As, dollar exchange difficulties have been the predominant factor in the sterling Hoc and our own transactions with the United States of America, will the Government give early consideration to the removal of petrol rationing in Australia now that the American loan to Great Britain has been approved ?
– It is true that the availability of dollars has been one. of the factors impeding the importation to Australia of sufficient motor spirit to permit the abolition of petrol rationing. I am not quite sure yet what will be the effect of the approval by Congress of the loan to Great Britain, but my general impression is that it will make the dollar position easier. We must bear in mind, of course, that a large proportion of available dollars will be expended upon capital equipment and consumer goods urgently required in the United Kingdom. Also, special provision has been made in regard to the winding up of the lend-lease agreement. I am not yet able to say whether the granting of the loan will make easier the importation of larger quantities of petrol, but I can assure the honorable member that action in tHs direction will be taken as soon. as possible. I may add that Australia has endeavoured not to make relatively greater demands upon the dollar pool for petrol than are being made by the United Kingdom itself. The Commonwealth Government considers that as the United Kingdom is denying itself certain imports of petrol because it is called upon to pay in dollars for supplies, Australia should not demand proportionately more dollars for the purchase of petrol than the United Kingdom does.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether a substantial proportion of the dollar loan that is being made by the United States of America to Great Britain will become available to Australia for purchases in the dollar area. In determining the quantity of petrol that may be distributed in Australia, compared with the distribution in Great Britain, was consideration given to the different transport methods employed, and the very much longer distances to be travelled in this country?
– A special proportion of the loan has not been set aside to meet Australian requirements. , The greater distances to be travelled in Australia were considered when the use of petrol was under review, but even taking that factor into account the view held was that relativity should be observed in the determination of the dollars that should be provided for purchases of petrol by each country.
Visits by Members of Parliament.
– Prior to the outbreak of World War II., facilities were granted to honorable members to visit the territories of the Commonwealth, notably New Guinea, in order to acquaint themselveswith conditions there, because the territories have no representative in this Parliament. As I have received many complaints that, under the present administration, it is impossible for planters and others to develop the external territories, will the Prime Minister restore those travel facilities? When that is done, honorable members may visit the territories and obtain the facts first-hand. If the right honorable gentleman decides to restore those facilities, will he inform me when it will be possible for members of this Parliament from all political parties to visit the territory ?
– The restoration of travel facilities to enable honorable members to visit the territories of the Commonwealth has not been considered, but I shall examine the honorable gentleman’s request and, discuss it with my colleague, the Minister for External Territories. Incidentally I thought that honorable members would have other things to occupy their minds during the next couple of months.
– I ask the Minister rep resen ting the Minister for Supply and Shipping to inform me whether any committee has been established to deal with post-war ship-building in Australia? If such a committee has been appointed, has it submitted to the Government any plans embracing a comprehensive ship-building scheme? Have any overseas ship-building companies indicated that they are prepared to commence ship-building in this country ?
– The Government appointed a committee to inquire into the possibility of retaining the ship-building industry in Australia in the post-war years. The committee submitted to Cabinet a report, which has received consideration. The basis of the Government’s plans is the construction of ships totalling 32,000 tons gross per annum. That figure, the Government feels certain, will ensure that employees in this industry will be retained, so that if the necessity arises, ship-building for defence purposes may be re-developed. I do not know whether any overseas companies have revealed interest in commencing shipbuilding in Australia, although, I understand that when the Prime Minister was in Great Britain, he discussed the subject with authorities on the industry.
Queensland Strike - Proposed Legislation : Deputation
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture read in Queensland newspapers reports in which authorities on the meat industry described as “ colossal ignorance” his statement that meat killing in Queensland would be extended to September or nearly October to enable some of the meat lost in the strike to be recovered ? If so, will the honorable gentleman inform the House on whose advice such a statement was made ? What can the Government or any one else do that will extendwhat is left of the killing season beyond the period when cattle were available to be slaughtered, or restore the prime condition which cattle carried prior to the last three months’ period of drought and strike?
– The authority for my statement was a practical man and an expert, not just a representative of the newspaper responsible for the report that the honorable member has read.
– Having undertaken to meet a fortnight hence a deputation of members of the Primary Producers Union in reference to meat matters, will the Minister for Com- merce and Agriculture meet the deputation before the two bills relating to the meat industry are debated by this House rather than after they have been debated, when anything the Minister might learn from the deputation would be of no avail?
– The two bills will be dealt with in the order in which they appear on the notice-paper, and in my own time I shall meet the deputation referred to by the honorable member.
Representation of Airmen
– Within the Department of Repatriation there are a number of authorities, such as the Repatriation Commission, with seven members, two War Pensions Entitlement Tribunals, each with three members, various State Repatriation Boards, each with three members, and a number of assessment tribunals, each with three members. I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether the members of all of those authorities are ex-soldiers. If so, will the Minister give sympathetic consideration, when further vacancies on those bodies arise, to the appointment of exmembers of the Royal Australian Air Force?
– The honorable member’s statement regarding the numerical strength of the tribunals mentioned is correct. I do not believe that there is a representative of the Royal Australian Air Force on any of those tribunals. Some members of the commission and of the principal tribunals are appointed by me as Minister, and other members are chosen from lists supplied by exservicemen’s organizations. I do not recall the name of any ex-member of the Royal Australian Air Force having been mentioned on those lists. The honorable member has taken great interest in exairmen, and I assure him that, if the names of any former members of the Air Force are listed for future vacancies, every consideration will be given to them.
– Has the Prime Minister read the cable in which the Australian Resident Minister in London, Mr. Beasley, is reported to have said that during the war the Government had had difficulty, at times, ‘in stiffening the morale of the Australian people, some of whom were driving cattle from the coasts and moving hospitals inland ? Has the right honorable gentleman ascertained whether or not the Australian Resident Minister has been correctly reported? If he has, can he make a statement on the matter ?
– I read the heading to the statement which Mr. Beasley made in London; but did not peruse the statement in detail. I shall do so, in order to determine whether or not it contains matter about which I can let the honorable member have some information.
Mr.CONELAN. - It has been reported that an inquiry is to be held into . the circumstances of the recent alleged riot at Gibraltar, in which a large number of the Australian Victory Contingent were said to be involved. Will the Minister for the Army assure the House that Australia will have adequate representation at any such inquiry, in order to ensure that the interests of Australia shall be adequately safeguarded?
– I have read in a section of the press that the Governor of Gibraltar intended to hold an inquiry concerning the co-operation or otherwise of the military police and civilians. Realizing that such an inquiry would impinge on the rights of Australia, and that probably some Australians would be implicated, the Government communicated with the Resident Minister in London, Mr. Beasley, who will make arrangements for a member of the military staff at Australia House to represent Australia at any inquiry that may be held.
– Some time ago, the Minister for Transport publicly expressed the view that it would be inadvisable for Australia to sign the Bretton Woods Agreement. When questioned on the matter the Prime Minister said that the Minister for Transport had expressed only his personal view. Will the right honorable gentleman state to this House his private opinion as to the advisability of Australia being a signatory to the Bretton Woods Agreement?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - Yes, in due course.
Preventive Measures by Customs Officers.
– In view of the publicity, adverse to this country, which has been caused by the search of the vessels Mariposa and Monterey recently by customs officers, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether this activity was due principally to the laxity in respect of customs officers in the past?
– I believe that the customs officers referred to were merely carrying out their duties. In doing so, flierlived up to the. highest traditions of avery efficient service. I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s views to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Was a departmental inquiry instituted in regard to the actions of certain customs officers? Did it result in one officer being dismissed, and in others being otherwise penalized? If so, is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs able to make a statement on the matter?
– I have no information that would indicate that any customs officer has been dismissed. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs, and furnish the information desired, probably to-morrow.
Free Licences for Schools
– Many schools in New South Wales have been provided with radio receiving sets by Parents and Citizens Associations. The usual listeners’ licence-fee hasto be paid in respect of these sets. As they are used for educational purposes, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General consider an amendment of the broadcasting regulations to provide for listeners’ licences to be issued free of charge in all such cases ?
Mr.CAL WELL.- This matter is covered by the Australian Broadcasting Act, not by any regulations made under it. A bill to amend the act is to be introduced before the end of the session and I shall ask the Postmaster-General to consider the honorable gentleman’s representations when framing the measure. It may be possible to incorporate his suggestion in the amending legislation.
– Will the Minister for Air state whether the Department of Air intends to disperse the camp at Gawler? If so, when is the dispersal to be made? In view of the shortage of labour, and the need for making early provision for housing in the district, will the Minister examine the possibility of having the buildings at the camp made available for housing purposes?
– I cannot say offhand whether or not the intention is to disperse the air camp at Gawler. Many air stations will not be required for post-war purposes. I shall inquire whether or not it will be possible to make available for housing purposes the buildings now at thecamp. However, I reiterate my previous statement that when Air Force huts become available the Commonwealth Disposals Commission decides how they will be disposed of I shall be glad to assist, if possible, to achieve the purpose desired by the honorable member.
Arbitration Court Hearing
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether there is any prospect of an early decision in the 40-hour case, which has, been before the Arbitration Court for some considerable time? If there is not,will the Minister endeavour to “ oil “ the machinery ofthe court, and prevent the issue from becoming entangled in a maze of legalisms?
– The case is being continued in Sydney this week before the Full Bench of the Arbitration Court, but the hearing seems to be proceeding rather slowly. I had hoped that more rapid progress would have been made. No blame can be placed on the court, because it is anxious to expedite the hearing, and it has set other business aside to enable it to complete the case within a reasonable period. The representatives of the parties to the dispute have taken ample time to present argument to the court. I rather think that the concluding note struck by the honorable member in his question indicated the reason for the delay. The legal men employed by the parties to present the case to the court are experts at “ going slow “,
Housing and Industrial Loans
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Commonwealth Bank Board, under its new powers, has yet made advances for housing and industrial purposes?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - Advances are being provided to assist in the housing scheme, and they are also being made by the industrial finance department of the bank. I shall supply to the honorable member a statement of the advances that have already been made.
Debate resumed from the 12 th July (vide page 2475), on motion by Mr. Scully -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure is not only of vital importance to those engaged in the wheat industry, but also, because of the value of wheat in the Australian economy, the bill is of prime importance to all our people. It may be considered that the continuance of the industry is a matter of concern only to those engaged in it, but, of course, that is not so. This industry provides the staple food of the people, and in that respect it affects all. of the people, and provides, second only to wool, the volume of credit overseas upon which this country depends in importing some of the necessaries of every-day life. We are unable to produce rubber, petroleum, oil, drugs, tea and many other commodities, and we could not import them unless we were first able to establish credits overseas. Therefore, any course of events which resulted in diminishing our production of wheat to such an extent that nothing was left for export would adversely affect the whole economy and way of life of the Australian people. From every aspect from which the matter can be examined, this bill is one of national importance. At the outset I can only say that I am profoundly disappointed at the manner in which the measure attacks the problem of the industry.
It will be interesting to traverse the history of wheat growing during the last decade or so, because all the suffering that those engaged in it could have endured has been centred in their experiences since the disastrous fall of world prices of primary products in about 1930-31. That fall threw the industry into the arena of party politics, and it has been an issue in party politics ever since. The party with which I am associated has endeavoured strenuously, in office and out of office, to do those things which are designed to remove the industry from the political arena, and stabilize it on a basis of permanency fair alike to those engaged in wheat production and those indirectly affected by it. We have seen this Parliament called upon to vote many millions of pounds for the insistance of the wheat-growers. These producers have been obliged to grow ;it a loss many millions of bushels of wheat to feed the people of Australia. I shall leave that experience, and refer, merely in passing, to Two things done on the initiative of the Australian Country party which were of first-class importance to the wheat industry. In 1938, a. home consumption price for wheat was established for the first time in Australia, upon the initiative of this party. Up to that time the people of Australia had been supplied with wheat sold to’ them at a price which had nothing to do with its production costs, or the price at which it could be sold on the other side of the world, less the co t of transporting it to the people. We all know of the constitutional difficulties which had been regarded by all concerned as an insuperable barrier to the establishment of a home consumption ‘price; yet, by a tortuous process, the constitutional difficulties were overcome, by the device of the flour tax and the’ arrangement under which the governments of the six States should pass, for the first time, concurrent and similar legislation.
– Who brought that about?
– It was introduced for the first time by the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), and simultaneously the Minister took from the Australian Wheat Board every atom of authority that it possessed. The board has since functioned as a mere appendage of the Department - of Commerce and Agriculture. If ever the wheat-growers were sold a gold brick, they were when the board was reconstituted concurrently with the subtraction from it of- every vestige of authority. In order to examine this proposal on its merits it is necessary first to decide one’s attitude towards a great principle, upon which this Parliament should not. seek to avoid a decision, namely, whether wheat grown by a private individual on his own land and on his own initiative should be regarded as his own property until sold; or whether wheat, alone of all products, is to be regarded as the property of the nation, to he disposed of in accordance with political policy.
If it is legally and ethically correct to sell a grower’s wheat to” a pig feeder for half the price that an export flour miller would be prepared to give, then by the same logic, a dairyman’s milk ought to be taken and sold to a nursery kindergarten at half the price that an icecream manufacturer would pay; or boots or shirts should be taken by the Government for old-age pensioners at half the price for which they could be sold to wageearners. On this point, my party stands clearly for the principle that wheat grown in this allegedly free country should be sold to bring the best returns to iti 1’jrodiicers. Prom this we make one exception. Wheat sold for human consumption in Australia should be charged for, not at the highest price obtainable as a result of external competition, but at a’ price which is related to the cast of production, allowing a fair margin of profit.
This involves a willingness to feed the Australian people to-day with wheat at least 5s. a bushel lower in price than could be obtained by export, and such a concession by the producers is made out of a remembrance that, in the past, the Australian people have been taxed to pay relief to wheat growers, and out of a belief that, should the export value of wheat in the future fall below cost of production, the Australian people would again be willing to make some contribution to the maintenance of this basic industry. To-day, the balance of financial obligation is very much more by the ‘ Australian people to the wheat industry than by the wheat industry to the Australian people. From 1931 to 1941, a total of £21,202,144 was voted by this Parliament for the relief of wheat growers, and this amount is increased to £30,000,000 if three-quarters of the £12,000,000 vote for rural debt adjustment is accepted as having gone to the relief of wheat growers, and their creditors. But, during almost the whole. qf this time, until the advent of the Hour tax legislation, wheat was sold at much less than the cost of production - for long periods at shillings a bushel less than the cost of production.
Since the advent of the Labour Government, not one penny has been voted from Consolidated Revenue to supplement the realizations of the wheat growers; but during the Labour Administration, wheat has been supplied for stock feed purposesprincipally to permit the production of cheaper bacon and eggs and dairy produce - at £15,024,000 less than the same wheat could have been sold for to other buyers.
When, about three years ago, I said in this Parliament that a continuance for another eighteen months of the Government’s policy of selling the farmers’ wheat at concessional prices would be tantamount to stealing from the growers £10,000,000- which additional amount they could get from alternative buyers - I was laughed to scorn by the Minister and. his satellites in this Parliament. As immediate as an echo, came the same derisive denials from those elected leaders of the wheatgrowers’ organizations whom the Minister had cunningly enmeshed by putting them on his pay-roll. To-day, it is, of course, history that I underestimated the amount by which the Minister had mulct the wheat-growers.
Fighting a dogged, rearguard battle, lie lias since paid in partial compensation £9,095,000 to the growers, and it is a matter of simple arithmetic to calculate that, on the basis of what used to pass for justice in this country, another £6,000,000 is still owing to them. That fight will be continued, although not in connexion with this bill. It is, however, very important to ensure that this bill shall not be passed in a form which would enable this or any subsequent Minister similarly to rob wheat-growers.
For five years after the last war, the average export value of wheat, as shown in the Tear-Book, was 6s. 2d. a bushel, and for ten years after the last war the average value was a decimal point below 6s. Every fact which has a bearing upon world wheat values indicates a high level of prices for a number of years ahead; the absence of world stocks, the disorganized state of important producing countries, the heightened human consciousness that masses of people must not be hungry, and the war-inflated currencies, all point to a continuance for years of high prices for wheat. In short, a .guarantee of 5s. 2d. a bushel for five years literally is worth nothing.
Therefore, this legislation means that, in exchange for a five-year guarantee which is completely worthless, the grower in this young country is to submit himself to an arbitrary and autocratic regulation of the acreage he may sow, and there is to be compiled a comprehensive set of regulations designed to prevent other persons from engaging in the industry. Growers must submit to the seizing of perhaps one-third of their whole crop in one year, and its sale to” persons in other industries for many millions of pounds less than they could obtain by private realization; to the retention from the proceeds of export sales of many millions of pounds of their money to be, at best, held for years against the day when some other growers may need assistance. To paraphrase Mr. Churchill - never before in the history of this great industry has so much been taken from so many for so illusory an advantage. The vendor . of gold bricks and the rich uncle from Fiji should slink away in shame in the presence of their master, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
Mr. J’. S. Teasdale, chairman of the Wheat Pool of Western Australia, and one of the growers’ representatives on the Australian Wheat Board, is recognized, as if- not the foremost, one of the foremost, authorities in Australia on wheat marketing. He has made certain simple calculations which reveal “results of the most startling character which would attend the operation of this plan. Quoting the present export price of wheat at 10s. a bushel f.o.b., and allowing that, by the end of five years, the price may have fallen by half, he points .out that the mean average for the period would be 7s. 6d. a bushel, f.o.b., bulk basis. Then, taking last year’s very modest crop of 123,000,000.bushels as an example, Mr. Teasdale points out that, on such a crop, 32,000,000 bushels would be used for home-consumption flour; and 28,000,000 bushels for consumption in Australia as stock feed, breakfast food, malting, &c; leaving 63,000,000 bushels for export as flour and wheat. Multiplying these figures by five, to cover a fiveyear period, he points out that 160,000,000 bushels would be sold at 5s. a bushel, bulk basis, being £20,000,000 less than export parity ; 140,000,000 bushels would be sold at the same price for stock feed, &c, providing a return of £17,500,000 below export parity; and 315,000,000 bushels would be exported, subject to an average tax of1s. 3d. a bushel for the Stabilization Fund, thereby withholding £19,787,500 from the growers ; showing a total of £57,287,500 withheld from the industry in five years under this plan. Those calculations are clearly set out in a simple table prepared by Mr. Teasdale -
Proceeding, Mr. Teasdale points out that should the average annual marketable crop exceed 123,000,000 bushels and the average export price be 8s. f.o.b. - as he says it may well be - then the amount withheld from growers will be from £68,000,000 to £70,000,000. And this is stabilization !
I have no need to say that the Australian Country party agrees with the principle of wheat stabilization. That party introduced the principle, which would be still operating but for the unforgivable action of the present Minister in terminating it. My party is again prepared to support the establishment of stabilization on a fair basis, but I emphasize that “fair” is the key word of its attitude. We will resist any plan, or parts of a plan, which are stupid or unjust, or which do not recognize the principle that the grower has full property rights in his product until realization. My guiding points in examining the bill are - that the disposal of the growers’ product must really be under the control of his own chosen representatives; and that any concession which a government may wish to make in providing lower prices for wheat for certain sections must be made good by the Government to the wheat industry. I have said that the Australian Country party stands for stabilization. That declaration immediately infers, first, that the period of price guarantee must be long enough to cover’ and equalize a cycle of price variations; and secondly, that the guaranteed basic stabilization price should be adequate to cover the cost of production and provide a reasonable profit. I find myself in conflict with the bill on both points. In the first place, the bill provides for a fiveyear period only. The most elementary examination of the world statistical position in respect of. wheat makes it quite clear that no glut of wheat which could result in low prices could possibly occur within five years.
Mr. Teasdale recently made a statement setting out the grounds upon which he concluded that wheat prices would remain at a high level for some years. I accept his judgment on this matter, and repeat some of his conclusions: -
To-day, there are practically no world stocks of wheat, and there is also a world shortage of alternative grains, particularly rice.
The unstable political structure in both Europe and Asia weighs heavily against the quick re-organization of full production in those continents.
The destruction and obsolescence of machinery, both for production and transport, is an important factor.
Reduction in land fertility due to war-time fertilizer shortages; the world craving for animal fats for the production of which there must be a great consumption of grains; the increased population of India and other Asiatic countries, demanding increased imports; the elimination of Danubian countries from the list of exporters while under . Russian control; the determination of the Great Powers to see that there is no widespread shortage of food, irrespective of capacity to pay; and the recognized necessity to rebuild reserve stocks which calls for approximately 600,000,000 bushels.
These are powerful factors which make it certain that there cannot be a serious fall of wheat prices within five years. Therefore wheat-growers do not need a live-year plan. Most growers believe that they would be very much better off without a five-year plan, when, with high prices and free realization, they could mend their own broken fortunes. What they do fully endorse, however, is the need for real stabilization of the industry, and that cannot usefully be attempted in any plan for less than ten years.
I therefore disagree with the Government’s proposal on the first point, and urge the necessity for a ten-year stabilization plan.
– At a lower rate?
– The second fundamental in a real stabilization plan is that the minimum guaranteed price shall cover the cost of production and provide a reasonable profit. The Government’s proposal of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports does not cover the present cost of production, and no one can say whether it will be more or less than cost of production in five .years’ time. An adequate plan must cover the cost of production to-day, and also provide for covering the cost of production for the whole period of the plan. No one will deny that there can be no true stabilization in disregard of cost of production; yet although, the present Government has talked of stabilization for years, it has either failed to conduct an inquiry into cost of production or has deliberately refrained from doing so. That brands the Government’s administration as either incompetent or insincere. However, growers’ organizations in every State have conducted such an inquiry and, in the absence of an’ official investigation, the results arrived at by the organizations remain the only guide. They show that the cost of production averages 5s. 2d. a bushel at country sidings, bagged basis. On that basis, and bearing in mind the ‘ undiminished upward tendency of all costs, the Australian Country party considers that os. 2d. a bushel at growers’ sidings is a fair basic minimum guarantee for the forthcoming harvest. Obviously such a guarantee involves no possible Treasury liability in face of the insatiable demand for wheat at its present export value of 10s. 6d. a bushel at ports. Our inability to name a guaranteed price for this year based on an’ official examination of costs is entirely due to the Government’s negligence, notwithstanding constant demands for an inquiry to ascertain the cost of production.
In regard to the guaranteed minimum price for subsequent years, the Government’s plan provides for 5s. 2d. a bushel at ports for the four following harvests. The wheat-growers want only a fair guarantee. How impossible it is to predict for several years ahead what would be an adequate price is shown by the fact that although only five ‘ years ago the Wheat Growers Federation demanded stabilization at a guaranteed price of 3s. 10½d. a bushel at country sidings, costs had so risen within a year that that rate was quite inadequate. A year earlier the growers had asked for 3s< lOd. a bushel at ports as a basis for stabilizing the industry. In both cases within a year these prices were shown to be completely out of relation to the then existing state of affairs. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has reminded us that while he was Prime Minister the growers had asked for 3s. lOd. a bushel at ports, but that later they asked for that price at sidings. The honorable member for Wakefield- (Mr. Smith) also reminded us that within the last year this Government offered 4s. 8d. a bushel at ports and later raised the “ ante “ to 5s. 2d. a bushel at ports. All of this goes to show that in a world in which values and costs are changing rapidly there is no possibility at any point of saying that any price is a fair and adequate price to stand for five years. Therefore, the Australian Country party’s proposal is that there should be established a statutory tribunal which, upon investigation and evidence, would ascertain the fair cost of production and devise a formula to enable that cost to be kept up to date. Upon the decision of such a statutory body, the annual minimum guaranteed price should be fixed, and provision should be made in the legislation for such a system to function and such a guarantee to operate for at least ten years, a3 no less a period than that can be regarded as sufficient to bring about the true stabilization of an industry such as wheat-growing, in which such substantial capital investment is involved. The Australian Country party, however, believes that whilst the guarantee should be proclaimed as covering a minimum period of ten years, the arrangement should be of a permanent and continuous character. Furthermore, it believes this to be the system upon which all the major primary industries .should be stabilized, and that the price-determining authority ought to be of a character competent through its specialized sections to ascertain and keep under continuous review costs of production in all such major primary industries. It is a truism that an industry cannot continue indefinitely unless it receives cost of production; yet the Government brightly claims to be giving stabilization to the wheat industry by guaranteeing a price which, as far as I can see, might have been arrived at by consulting the stars or by pulling a number out of a hat. Wheat may be said to be worth what it costs to produce, or, what some one is prepared to give for it. On the latter basis, it is to-day worth 10 s. 6d. a bushel at ports ; as to the former, there is no official evidence whatever. An amount of 5s. 2d. a bushel at ports was decided upon in 1938 by the Lyons Government as being the fair value for wheat for home consumption in order to enable a 4-lb. loaf of bread to be sold for ls., and. that amount was therefore fixed as the basis for the calculation of the flour tax. Tt will be remembered that all of the members of the Australian Labour party then sitting in opposition voted against that proposal.
– They did nothing of the kind’. That is a completely untrue statement. ‘
– The division lists which are to be found in the records of the Parliament will prove the accuracy of what I have said. To-day, that figure still stands for that purpose, but it was never chosen as a figure related either to cost of production or export parity. How the present Government came to adopt it as the minimum guaranteed price I cannot imagine, and the Minister has, not attempted to explain. This brings me to the point that a figure chosen in 1938 because it would produce a 4 lb. loaf of bread for ls. is to-day completely out of date, and every loaf of bread consumed in Australia is made from wheat provided by wheat-growers at less than its cost of production. I challenge the Government to prove the contrary. No other industry in Australia is expected, let alone forced, to provide ;the Australian people with food to eat or clothes to wear at less than cost of production, and this figure must now be reviewed. I mentioned earlier that, during the life of the Lyons and Menzies Governments, £21,000,000 had been paid in direct assistance to the wheat-growers, and in addition approximately £9,000,000 had been provided as rural debt relief. T desire to draw the attention of the Government and the Australian taxpayers to the other side of the picture. Out of ‘ last year’s harvest, 34,000,000 bushels will be used for human consumption in Australia and will be provided at 5s. a bushel less than the growers could realize by exporting it. In short, in this one year, the Australian wheatgrowers will, out of their own pockets, subsidize Australian consumers of bread to the value of £8,500,000. On the previous crop this reverse subsidy was worth not less than £5,000,000 to Australian consumers, and even if the export value of wheat is no higher next year than it is at present, growers will again subsidize consumers to the amount of £8,500,000. Therefore, on these three crops alone, wheat-growers will have subsidized Australian consumers to the amount of £22,000,000, and over the same period under . the Government’s proposals growers will have provided wheat as feed to produce eggs, bacon, &c, for £20,000,000 less than they would have realized by export. There can be no disputing these figures. The calculations are based on simple arithmetic, and show clearly that it is intended to compel wheat-growers by law to pay back to the Australian public - plus interest at usurer’s rates - all of the assistance they ever received “in the depression years, and very much more in -addition. This is a consumer’s government dominated by members representing metropolitan constituents who are concerned only with costs to consumers. Yet it has attempted to masquerade as one which concerns itself with the problems of producers. It is an extraordinarily difficult ‘ feat to satisfy, consumers that they can have the cheapest possible foodstuffs and at the same time satisfy producers by giving them the value of their products at a time when such value happens to be high. That feat this Government has not attempted to perform. Its acts have revealed it as a consumers government. Australian consumers were- quite willing for about a decade in the “ thirties “ to have their bread made from wheat priced at its export value, and cheap merely because impoverished people overseas could not pay a fair price. Wheat-growers would, therefore, have logic on their side if to-day they asked that Australian consumers should have dearer bread, because the overseas value is now high. To their great credit, however, Australian wheatgrowers do not ask this. What they do ask is that their fellow Australians pay them, for the bread they eat, cost of production of their wheat, plus a fair profit. If the Government believes that the price of bread should not be raised - and in that I willingly concur as that is the definite policy ‘of my party - the Government should pay to the Australian Wheat Board whatever is necessary to meet the difference between the present home consumption price for wheat and its ascertained costs of production. The Australian wheat-grower’s willingness to provide bread at cost to his fellow Australians is hot a gesture of liberality which he extends to Australian pigs. The principle here is quite clear, and surely unarguable. It is that government authority should not be invoked to take the product of one industry from its owners at a lower price than they could realize, and make it available to those engaged in another industry. The Australian wheat-farmer is willing to produce wheat at cost of production for his fellow Australians to eat bread. But he is not willing to produce his wheat at bare cost’ of production to help the man in the pig or poultry or dairy industry to produce his product more cheaply, or to help consumers get their eggs, bacon or milk more cheaply, regardless of the. value of wheat to an alternative buyer.
He wants the wheat which he produces surplus to our human requirements to be realized at its market value. If any government wishes to aid a live-stock industry which uses wheat as a feed, and that really means if any government wishes to keep the cost of eggs and baconand dairy products low to consumers, then the wheat-farmer claims that the Government must pay into the funds of the Australian Wheat Board the difference between market value and any concessional price determined upon. This principle the Australian Country party vigorously upholds.
How grave an injustice can otherwise be- done to Australian wheat-growers under the terms of this present plan can clearly be seen by picturing ‘a recurrence of a drought such as that which ended a year ago. This would produce a condition under which there would be n low production of wheat and a stimulated demand for stock feed, in which case all the wheat surplus to human requirements would be needed for stock feed and would be sold at bare cost of production, notwithstanding that a very high level of export values prevailed. So, the wheat industry, while suffering grave loss through drought, would be obliged to provide Australian bread consumers with wheat at less than cost of production, and. Australian stock feeders with wheat at less than cost of production, and at the same time, wheat-growers would have to draw upon their own accumulated moneys in the stabilization fund to bring their return up to the guaranteed price, notwithstanding the existence of high export values.
The plan proposes to make wheat for stock feed purposes available for five years at a price’ of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports; but neither the plan nor the Minister’s speech reveals where authority is to repose to decide whether, or how much, wheat is to be sold for stock feed purposes. Either the Minister retains the power to direct the provision and determine the quantity of wheat set aside for stock feed purposes or the board must’ make this decision. If the board is to possess the authority of decision, then it, comprising a majority of wheat-growers, acting virtually as trustees for their fellow growers, will be confronted with, the extremely difficult problem of deciding to allocate wheat for sale for local feed purposes at 5s. 2d. a bushel at a time when if, could realize perhaps 10s., or more, a bushel by deciding to export. Is the Australian Wheat Board or the Minister to have the authority? Or is the board obliged under the bill to supply all the wheat demanded for stock feed purposes at 5s. 2d. .a bushel ? That seems to me to be the only conclusion that can be drawn from the measure. The bill will oblige the Australian Wheat Board for so long as this legislation remains in force to provide all wheat demanded for any local purpose at 5s. 2d. a bushel. That requirement can result in a very serious loss to the growers. [Extension of time granted.]
When the pig and poultry and dairying industries are at a profitable level there will be a high demand for feed wheat, and when a drought occurs this demand will be added to by sheep feed requirements.. The same seasonal conditions would produce a small crop, so I can easily ‘ envisage- a state of affairs under which all the wheat surplus to human requirements in Australia would be demanded for stock feed requirements at the proposed prescribed price. Such a state of affairs actually occurred only a year ago-. In these circumstances, wheatgrowers would not be able to take any advantage of high export values, and the position could be aggravated by other government policies designed to stimulate the pig, poultry and dairying industries. In short, a simple calculation will reveal that until such time as the export value falls below the guaranteed price, this plan will produce a result under which the smaller the crop the less price per bushel growers will receive. That statement is unchallengeable: and that result brands the plan as both stupid and unjust. The recurrence of drought in this country is so certain that that state of affairs is absolutely certain to obtain under this plan.
I sincerely hope that the Government will recognize this fault in the general legislation and remove it now; otherwise grave injustice is certain to be done to wheat-growers in a drought year. In the circumstances, drought, which would cause growers loss in their operations, would at -the same time stimulate the local feed demand and automatically deprive them of the compensating factor of export sales at a profitable level. These are important principles, all of them founded wholly on equity, which the Australian Country party claims to be fundamental to a fair wheat stabilization plan.
But there is one other point of first importance. It is that the administration of the plan, and particularly the “disposal of wheat, should be in the hands of a grower-controlled wheat board, possessing real authority. If ever the wheat-growers were sold a gold brick it was when the Minister made good his promise to give the growers majority representation on the Australian Wheat Board, and, at the same moment, took from the board almost every vestige of power of any value. The growers would have, been infinitely better off had the Minister abolished it, for then he would at least have been recognized as the real centre of decision. As it is, the wheat board, powerless though it is, has proved an invaluable stalking horse for the Minister for Commerce and- Agriculture (Mr. Scully).
– That is a reflection on the Australian Wheat Board.
– It is a compliment to the Minister’s political acumen. There is in this plan one principle which I hope all will recognize as a fundamental departure from every previously accepted principle of just public administration in this country. It is, that a portion of a grower’s production is to be taken and set aside to be held as a reserve, without any suggestion or pretence of recording or recognizing that he retains any property right in it. Unless we are to abandon our traditional conception of the rights of the individual to the product of his labour, provision ought to be made in the plan for an equity register of all growers, so that, if circumstances permit, it shall be possible to repay some of the contribution on a basis that has regard to the total contribution of each grower. If the Government takes the view that growers have no right to their wheat once they have grown it, it should say so, and growers would know where they stand. But it is plain that if growers still have full property rights in their wheat under this scheme, their representatives should be permitted to sell it. That is organized marketing, of which the Government proclaims itself in favour in the referendum season. Anything less is not organized marketing, and it will be futile for the Government to proclaim itself from the referendum hustings as in favour of organized marketing of primary products if it is not prepared to permit the Australian Wheat Board to have authority to organize the marketing of wheat. That would not preclude the Government from, as a matter of policy, deciding that a certain quantity of wheat should be reserved for a particular purpose or a particular customer, but it would have to become responsible to the Australian Wheat Board for the current prevailing value of the wheat.
This legislation establishes an Australian Wheat Board with a majority of growers’ representatives, and is therefore calculated to persuade growers to believe that their elected representatives ‘will be in charge of their own industry. I point out, however, that the two most vital points affecting a wheat-grower are the price which he receives for his -product and his opportunity to engage in production. This legislation has mandatory provisions concerning price, and to that extent it removes that issue from the authority of the Australian Wheat Board. I point out to growers that there is to be a wheat stabilization committee which will have complete authority to decide their opportunity to produce in terms of acres, but it will be nominated by the Minister and will be subject entirely to ministerial direction. Therefore, on the second vital point the Australian Wheat Board, with ‘all its growers’ representatives, is stripped of authority to decide or even advise upon the extent to which growers are to be entitled to engage in their own industry. That is completely contrary to the interests of the growers, and I propose that the Australian Wheat Board shall be the authority to advise the Minister and act for him in the regulation of production.
There are many other points of important detail which can more appropriately be discussed in the committee stage of the bill. Points I have mentioned are fundamentals, and so important to the formulation of a fair stabilization plan that I now* propose an amendment to the second reading which covers these points, and one other point of vital consequence dealing with a matter which is involved in the present plan, but certainly should have no place in it. I refer to the inclusion, of the 1945-46 crop in the Government’s plan. The Government needs no reminding by me of the disastrous experiences of the wheat industry over the last fifteen years, and of the tremendous losses involved, and it is, I am sure, well aware of the resulting parlous financial position of a vast number of wheat-growers. Last year’s harvest, following the most disastrous drought, was of quite modest proportions, and growers are desperately in need of the benefits of full realization at the present high level of values. Therefore, common sense ought to have induced the Government to allow the grower to benefit by these high prices and to gain some financial alleviation. As a matter of just treatment of citizens, there is an. unanswerable case for the Government not to attempt to include the last- harvest in the plan. Wheat-growers’ official representatives are vehement in declaring that the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, assured them that in respect of the war-time pools, they would receive full realization. Does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture deny that? But this wheat was compulsorily acquired from the growers by proclamation in November last year, and their ownership was converted into an entitlement to compensation by the Government. It would be a remarkable decision of law if it were decided that their entitlement to compensation could be satisfied by placing a substantial proportion of the realization on their crop in the fund designed to benefit wheatgrowers five years hence, many of whom would not be the growers who had built up the fund. The following table sets out how growers will fare under this proposal : -
Amount withheld from individual growers under proposal in bill in respect to 1945-46 crop, of growers who delivered various quantities to pool.
Amount proposed to be withheld for Stabilization Fund, 2s. 2d. per bushel, being 50 per cent. of difference between 5s. 2d. and9s.6d. Calculations on basis of 50 per cent. of pool being exported -
It is an outrageous act of repudiation, and an action ofvery questionable legality, to include last year’s harvest in the stabilization plan, and an action which most callously disregards the acute financial needs of thousands of wheatgrowers. My amendment is designed to correct this injustice and enable the introduction of an adequate, workable and fair stabilization plan. I therefore move -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for stabilization of the wheat industry for a period of not less than ten years excluding the 1945-46 harvest, and, in particular, to provide -
a guaranteed price basis of not less than 5s. 2d. per bushel, bagged, at growers’ sidings, for the next crop ;
thereafter, an annual guaranteed minimum price related to cost of production, allowing a margin of profit;
the entitlement of growers to the full net realization of each annual pool less a contribution to a stabilization fund of not more than 50 per centum of realization in excess of the guaranteed price;
payment by the Government to the Australian Wheat Board of the difference between the prevailing export parity and the price at which any wheatis sold by Government direction for export or consumption within Australia, other than human consumption within Australia;
the establishment of an authority to ascertain current costs of production to enable the operation of the foregoing provisions; and
that, subject to the foregoing, the Australian Wheat Board shall have full authority in negotiating export sales, and shall be the authority to advise the Minister and act for the Minister in respect to any regulation of production.”
I say, with the full authority of the Australian Country party, that this amendment represents the policy of my party and, if the Government does not. accept this amendment, my party, if in power after the next election, will amend the wheat legislation in accordance with the principles of this amendment.
.- Unlike the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon); I am unable to speak on this measure with the experience of a practical wheat-grower ; but at least I can speak with the experience of a primary producer who has been engaged in the production of allied products, and with the experience of one who has served for eight years in the State Parliament of Victoria, and nine years in this legislature, during which time I have been able to observe closely the wheat-grower’s struggle for economic security, and impact of his troubles upon the problems of this country. If we examine the importance of wheat in Australia’s economic structure, and take into consideration some of the figures that are available, we do not wonder that this industry has become a matter for intense political discussion. Australia to-day has approximately 50,000 wheat-growers. That number represents at least 75,000 farmers, and, in addition, there are approximately 25,000 permanent employees of wheat-farmers, making a total of 100,000 people directly engaged in this great industry. In a normal year, wheat covers approximately 12,500,000 acres in this country, and for the ten-year period ended 1942-43 the annual wheat yield averaged 156,000,000 bushels,valued at approximately £30,000,000. Ordinarily, 32,000,000 bushels of wheat is consumed in Australia in the form of flour and other food products. According to figures for the five-year period ended 1942-43, 13,000,000 bushels a year was required for stock feed. An impetus has been given to the use of wheat as stock feed, first by the concessional rates inaugurated by this Government, and secondly by the dire needs created by droughts-. The demand is increasing. Eventually .this new market for wheat will be of considerable value. A further 11,000,000 bushels of wheat is required for seed purposes, bringing the total of our home consumption needs to approximately 56,000,000 bushels annually. Australia occupies tenth place amongst the wheat-producing countries cf the world, and in normal years it exports 18 per cent, of the world’s total exports of this commodity. For the fiveyear period ended 1938-39, we exported au average of 68,000,000 bushels of wheat, and in one year the figure was as high as 97,000,000 bushels. With a return to normal conditions and seasons, and the application of mechanical and scientific methods of farming, we can look forward .to a normal export trade of not less than 90,000,000 to 100,000,000 bushels of wheat a year. The indirect benefit of this industry to Australia cannot be overlooked. It gives to our railway services an annual revenue of £3,500,000, and, according to the wheat board’s figures, administration, storage, and handling charges, &c, involved the disbursement of a like sum to the Australian community. In addition, the flour-milling industry provides employment for thousands of Australian citizens. Further employment, of course, is given by the demand for agricultural machinery, most of which is manufactured in Australia. Considerable additional sums of money are disbursed upon bags, twine and other goods, required in the wheat industry. Last, but not least, is the substantial standard of living that the industry should, and I believe, under this legislation, will provide for the wheat-grower and his family. That is the first reason for the political importance of this industry. The second reason - and it is a matter for consideration by Parliament - is the fact that, unfortunately, over a long period of years, world prices of wheat have fluctuated so greatly that the grower has come to realize that there is no alternative to political action to stabilize his means of livelihood by fixing the price of wheat at a figure sufficient to provide him with a standard of living not less than that of other Australian citizens who are rendering services to the community in their own particular spheres. The third reason for the political importance of this industry is this : Prior to the setting up of the authority which handled Australia’s wheat production during the war of 1914-18 and for some yea.rs after, and during the period between the wars, the wheat-growers of this country, as of most countries, realized . that only through political action could they bp saved from the operations of dealers and speculators who have waxed substantially rich and fat upon the labours of the farmers. Consciousness of the value of organized marketing first impressed itself on the minds of wheat-growers in 1920-21, the season in which the last wheat crop was handled under the marketing arrangements inaugurated during the war of 1914-18. About that time, the wheat-growers began to realize that during World War I. an authority appointed by the Government had handled the whole of their crop in a comparatively ‘ efficient manner, and that the proceeds had been distributed to them without any tribute being paid to wheat dealers and speculators. In- the days of open marketing, the dealers had- profited from the increased returns from the sale of wheat that had absorbed .moisture and gained weight while stored.. The growers did not fail to observe that the pool returned to them the amount of the increase. I mark that period as the time when wheatgrowers were first impressed with the value of organized marketing.
Following the decision of the Hughes Government to discontinue the operation of the pool, open market conditions were resumed and until the commencement of World War II., no effort was made by political parties other than the Labor party to introduce the acquisition or board method of handling wheat. It is true that, in 1920, wheat-growers in Victoria, conscious of the advantages of organized marketing, brought pressure to bear upon the State Paliament. The Labor party, always a believer in organized marketing, announced that it would support the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool in Victoria. The then comparatively radical Country party also declared that it would support the proposal. But in 1921, when a State election was precipitated, none of the three political parties was returned with an absolute majority, and the Country party accepted a political compromise offered by the National party, and the Government of the day inaugurated a voluntary pool. The disadvantage of a voluntary pool is that some, growers always decline to participate, and by reason of their refusal, they are able to break down the organized marketing efforts of those within the pool. Yet’ that was the system of marketing which was adopted in Victoria in 1921. I admit that it would have been difficult to operate the scheme successfully without the cooperation and complementary legislation of - New South Wales, South Australia and perhaps. Western Australia. Had they so chosen, the four States could have worked their -pooling .systems in co-operation. However, from that lime until 1939, the merchants, dealers and speculators had free rein to deal in wheat and manipulate the market. But on the outbreak’ of hostilities in 1939, private enterprise was not able to face the financial responsibility of buying and storing wheat, and the hazards of war. The Menzies Government then came to the rescue of the dealers and speculators, and, incidentally, the wheat-growers, by announcing that it would acquire the whole of the wheat produced in the Commonwealth.
– After some of the wheat had been sold for ls. a bushel.
– That is so. The Menzies Government appointed a board to market the wheat to the best advantage and pay the proceeds to the growers. As I stated, no effort was made between 1920 and 1939 by political parties other than the Labour party to deal with this problem. I do not exclude the Labour party . because in 1929, the Scullin Government came into office and in the following year, the price of wheat throughout the world tumbled to a disastrous level.
– The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) urged farmers to’ grow more wheat.
– The honorable member for Ballarat had better “skip” that episode.
– Members of the’ Australian Country party are anxious to encourage me to “ skip “ the true story of what occurred in 1929-31. The plain facts are that the price of wheat overseas tumbled to a disastrous level, and in Australia the price collapsed to 2s. a bushel. That return was so far below the cost of production that growers were not able to meet their commitments, and maintain a reasonable standard of living.
– Yet the right honorable member for Yarra urged farmers to grow more wheat !
– Every State government, whether Labour, National or Country party, encouraged farmers to grow more wheat.
Mi Abbott. - Rubbish !
– I repeat that the State governments encouraged the “grow more- wheat “ campaign for the very worthy purpose of endeavouring to produce sufficient quantities of wheat to enable the Commonwealth to meet its liabilities overseas, and, in that manner, avoid repudiating its external debts. No one will deny that. The next development was that when prices were so fatbelow the cost of production, the Scullin Government introduced the Wheat Marketing Bill, which provided a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel at growers’ sidings. The House of Representatives passed ..the bill, but in the Senate the legislation met defeat by the vote of a member of the Country party and several other anti-Labour senators. Since that day, members of the Australian Country party, to a greater extent, and members of the Liberal party, to a lesser extent, have endeavoured to place the blame for the. defeat of the bill upon the Scullin Government. Following that very worthy attempt to assist wheat-growers, the Scullin Government introduced the Wheat Advances Bill which provided for an advance upon farmers’ wheat. What was its fate? The government of the day . asked the Commonwealth Bank for an advance to enable those payments to be made to wheat-growers. The Commonwealth Bank Board, which was loaded with the representatives of every kind of political thought except the Labour party, refused the necessary finance. That is the true story cif why, at that period, the wheat-growers suffered so severely. Had the Commonwealth Bank Board been constituted differently, the growers’ position might have been improved.
When this bill was introduced a few days ago, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), by interjection, referred to the Lang Government’s proposal to pay to growers 7s. 6d. a bushel.
– And what did Mr. Gibbons propose?
– I shall tell the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) something which he will not like to hear. I shall tell the true story pf the attitude of the Commonwealth Bank Board at a time when an anti-Labour government was in office, and the board itself was controlled by directors whose views were not those of the Labour party. Its outlook then was very different from that which, I hope, the bank has- to-day. I have never told this story before, but I consider that it should be placed on record. In 1930-31, Mr. Slater was Minister for Agriculture in Victoria and I was an Assistant Minister. The peachgrowers of the Goulburn Valley were in dire distress because prices were so low, and they could not obtain money to finance the processing of their crop. Approach- ing Mr. Slater and myself, their representatives suggested that the Labour Go’vernment of Victoria should provide sufficient money to enable the payment of an advance of £5 a ton. If they received that assistance, the peaches could be picked and processed, and wages paid, and the canned fruit would then be available for export. The proceeds from the sale would have helped the Commonwealth to meet its overseas liabilities, which, at that time, were considerable. Although Mr. Slater and I were impressed with the proposal, we had to tell them the plain truth, namely, that the State had practically no resources available to assist them. With the approval of the State Government, we approached the Commonwealth Bank Board, and visited the chairman, Sir Robert Gibson, in the “ holy of holies “ in Collins-street. We stated our proposal in plain terms. Sir Robert paced the bank chamber and looked intensely wise, and this is what he said : “ Well, gentlemen, your proposal is a good one. The money will be made available. I will do anything to help your government, but I will not help that man Lang. “ There could not be a better illustration of political victimization by the great Commonwealth Bank. He was not concerned about the merits of any of Lang’s schemes. He believed, no doubt quite conscientiously, that it was essential in the interests of the country that the Lang Government should be destroyed. I do not hold any special brief for some of Mr. Lang’s proposals, but it is obvious that, irrespective of any merits of his schemes, the Commonwealth Bank Board was out to destroy his government. The Scullin Government’s term of office was the only period between World War I. and World War II. when any attempt was made to place the wheat industry entirely under the control of a board and to market wheat as the growers wanted, it to be marketed so as to obtain the best possible prices. Necessity forced the Menzies Government to adopt a similar plan at the outbreak of World War II. That government did what was apparently the only right thing to do and established the Australian Wheat Board. In the first place, the board was not substantially representative of the growers. In September, 1939, it consisted of a governmentappointed chairman, Sir Clive McPherson, three merchants, a representative of bulk handling interests, and two growers. In November, 1939, one miller was added to the board, and in December, 1940, at the request of the growers themselves, two additional growers were appointed. After the Labour Party came into power, the Board was substantially improved from the growers’ point of view, for, in November, 1941, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) appointed three more growers. By October, 1942, the board consisted of seven growers, one miller, and one government-appointed chairman, and by 1944, arrangements had been made for the growers to elect their own representatives by ballot.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), spoke of a Minister-dominated board which had to take the orders of the government of the day. The hoard appointed by the Menzies Government, of which the honorable member was a supporter, had to bow to the government of the day and take instructions from it. Anybody would think, hearing the honorable member’s statement, that only under a Labour government did the Minister have the final say in the decisions of the board. To correct what the honorable member has said, I quote a statement made by Senator McLeay, then Minister for Commerce, on the 15th November, 1939.
– I did not say what the honorable member attributes to me.
– No, but by his subtle manner the honorable member tried to lead the people to believe that the Labour Government was the only government which, in certain circumstances, had the final word in the decisions of the Wheat Board.
– I said that the board attempted to trick the growers-
– I know what the honorable member said. I shall read an extract from a statement made by a member of the Government which the honorable gentleman supported. On the 15th November, 1939, the Minister for Commerce said -
All these boards and committees-
He referred to the stabilization committees - have substantial grower representation and the Government is thus assured of securing the views of producers on the questions of price and market organization.
That board included three merchants, and they would certainly give the Government advice on prices and marketing organization! The statement continued -
They have assisted the Government in the negotiations as to price and other conditions, and they control the marketing, subject to the directions of the Minister for Commerce.
What is the purpose of all the humbug talked by the honorable member for Indi but to mislead the people
– What is the point of the honorable member’s remarks?1
– The statement I have quoted was made by a member of a government which th« honorable mem ber supported. That form of control has been continued by successive governments up to the present, and it would be continued even if the honorable member for Indi were to become Prime Minister to-morrow, an unlikely eventuality. Proceeding with the history of this troubled industry, we come to the period after acquisition had been instituted when the Menzies Government decided on a stabilization plan. In 1940 it introduced a plan, which provided for a price of 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. for a crop of 140,000,000 bushels. Anything realized over 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. was to be paid into a pool, which would be drawn upon to bring the payment to the grower up to 3s. lOd. a bushel in years when market prices were low. That price was the equivalent of about 2s. a bushel at sidings, and the guarantee covered 140,000,000 bushels. Actually, in 1941-42, the first season covered by the scheme, the crop was 153,000,000 bushels. Therefore, 13,000,000 bushels was not covered by the guarantee, and was subject to the vagaries of world markets. Could that . be called a generous scheme? How was it that the honorable member for Indi, the then’ Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and all the others who are now so insistent upon.the appointment of a committee to ascertain the cost of production, did not establish such a committee during the long period of low prices between 1921 and 1930 ? They had the power to do so.
– The Lyons Government did.
– It is true that a royal commission was appointed in 1934 with Sir Herbert Gepp as chairman. It is true that, after many months of meandering investigation and taking of evidence, a voluminous report was presented. But the report was entirely useless, ‘because anti-Labour governments did not act on the recommendations of the commission.
– Nor did they attempt to do so.
– That is so. I recollect that the report stated that in some parts of Australia the cost of production of wheat was 3s. 6d. a bushel and that in other parts the cost of production was 3s. 8d. a bushel. Yet, in 1940, the Menzies Government gave the growers the “handsome”- guarantee of 3s. lOd. a bushel, even though nearly ten years had elapsed since the report had been presented. These facts should be taken into consideration by the growers.
– That guaranteed price in 1940 was well above world parity.
– I take the honorable gentleman at his word. If it was, how much further above world parity was the 4s. a bushel at sidings that was paid under the Scully plan? At that time, there was no world parity. The honorable member for Indi has been at great pains to endeavour to show that the price of 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. guaranteed by the Government that he supported was a generous one.
– It was not a generous price.
– Compare it with the price of 4s. a bushel for the 1942-43 crop that was guaranteed under the Scully plan. When the price of 3s. lOd. a bushel for the 1941-42 crop was guaranteed by the Government supported by the honorable member for Indi, the stocks of wheat- in Australia in- November totalled the comparatively small quantity of 41,000,000 ‘ bushels. The conditions became worse with the entry of Japan into the war, and in November, 1942, a few months after the Scully price of 4s. a bushel at growers’ sidings for the first 3,000 bushels had been provided, the stocks of wheat in Australia has increased to 104j000,000 bushels. Twelve months later they had swollen to 154,000,000 bushels, and the prospects of disposing of the accumulation were much blacker than they had been prior to the entry of Japan into the wai’, when the guarantee of 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. was given by the MenziesPageMcEwen combination. I have stated facts, not drawn on my imagination, as did the honorable mem!ber for Indi, for much of the matter that he used. Had it not been for the wisdom of the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in breaking away from the stabilization plan of the preceding Government, disaster would have overtaken the wheat-grower in the drought which followed, the 1942-43 harvest. As it was, his plight was bad enough. The Government, through the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. Curtin, made the first really helpful gesture that had ever been made in the history of this country by any government, either Federal or State; it provided drought relief as a gift, not as a loan, and that helped to tide the growers over their difficulties.
Members of the Opposition, whose past in regard to wheat is murky, and who -realize fully that between 1921 and 1939 they did nothing to place the wheat industry under the control of a board composed principally of growers, now recognize that they are shockingly undermined politically. Therefore, they claim to be in favour of the principle of stabilization, but urge that the conditions ought to be made more generous. I believe that, had they composed the Government from 1941 to 1945, the marketing of wheat, as in 1914-18, would have been handed back to the control of the dealers and speculators. That has been the history of their attitude to the wheat industry since 1920-21. I gathered from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that he was more interested in making a point in regard’ to the submission of a question relating to the organized marketing of primary products at the forthcoming referendum than in canvassing the intrinsic worth of the present wheat plan. In his opening statement, he said in effect - “ The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), in his secondreading speech, pointed out that this plan had been made possible because of the cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States that are interested in wheatgrowing; it is the result of consultation with State Premiers, the Australian Agricultural Council, and so on. That being the case, why do we need a referendum on the organized marketing of primary products?” I can visualize his attempts to m.ike that point at the forthcoming general elections. What he did not tell the House was that this scheme has -reached the legislatures of the Commonwealth and the States only after arduous negotiation covering a period of many months. As the honorable member for Indi said in regard to the plan for a home-consumption price, this stabilization scheme is to be given effect only after intricate and involved negotiations with the six ‘State governments, during which there have been long and irritating delays which have’ fretted the wheat-grower and everybody else who is concerned in the matter. By.no means is it assured of complete success even now. A very good illustration of the possibility of a breakdown is furnished by what occurred after a conference had been held in this chamber to deal with the reference of powers by the States to the Commonwealth Parliament. That conference was composed of Commonwealth party leaders and the Premiers” and Leaders of Opposition of all the State parliaments. After much debate, the Premiers agreed to return to their respective States and to introduce legislation referring additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. A gentleman who is as astute as the honorable member for Indi, Mr. Dunstan, notwithstanding the solemn promise he had made, as well as the political principle that he should have honoured, attached a tag to his State legislation providing that it should only operate when similar legislation had been passed by all the other States. That proves how dangerous it is to depend upon- complementary legislation by the State parliaments in respect of important primary products, of which wheat is.such a striking example. I have made these remarks in order to direct attention to the subtlety of the approach of the Leader of the Opposition to the matter. He referred to the delays that have occurred in the introduction ‘of this measure. I have stated the reasons for them. He argued that, because of those delays, the 1945-46 crop should be excluded from the scheme. If the organized marketing powers- which are to be sought at the forthcoming referendum had been within the power of the Commonwealth Government this matte/ could have been completed last February or March, and irritating delays would not have occurred. The Leader of the Opposition- suggested that a poll of the growers should be taken.
It is quite obvious that honorable members opposite decided at a caucus meeting that whilst they could not say openly that they want to destroy this plan, they must raise against it every barrier that they can devise. I suppose it occurs to their rather subtle minds that if they could encourage the growers to clamour for a poll they might gain time, during which the merchants might exercise some influence on the growers’ minds. Even the Australian Wheat Growers Federation itself has not asked that a pool .be taken. The Leader of the Opposition said it would be unconstitutional to include the 1945-46 crop in the pool. I am not a lawyer but I believe that any product required for consumption in our own country could be dealt with under the price fixation legislation which I understand the right honorable gentleman himself introduced into this Parliament. I suggest to him that, as far as external prices are concerned, not one penny is to be taken from the growers that will not ultimately be paid back to them.
– Paid to somebody.
– A similar position would undoubtedly have arisen under the stabilization plan introduced by the Government with which the honorable member was associated.
– But it did not apply retrospectively.
– The honorable member has suggested that the 1945-46 harvest, for which a high export price can dp obtained, should be excluded. !No doubt he reasons that, as he will not be a member of a responsible government after the next elections, some other ministry will have to shoulder the responsibility should world prices crash. He will have no responsibility to make good any deficiency. The honorable member knows that there is every possibility that, within three years, world prices of wheat will collapse. He quoted certain remarks by Mr. Teasdale. That gentleman also said -
If we fail to do something along these lines - if we try to secure high prices for our stored products.; in fact, any price at all - we will inevitably break down international exchange, as resulted after last war. In fact, the position will bc worse than was the case after the 1914-18 war.
In these circumstances, do you think it a wise policy to build up big stocks solely on the expectation of selling them to “ the starving millions “ at high prices? We may arrange an alleged big price, it is true, based upon some bonds or pledges to pay in the future, which later, as after last war, would be whittled down to nothing. Why? Simply because they cannot pay.
For how long does the honorable member think that a poverty-stricken, war-starved Europe, or even Great Britain, can continue to pay the high wheat prices at present obtaining? The devastation after World War I. was as nothing compared with that resulting from “the recent war. Canada, with a faith in the efficiency of pooling and organized marketing, stored its wheat after the first world war, and endeavoured to hold Europe and other purchasing countries to rans or,; as regards prices. . As a result, the governments of Germany, France, Italy and other European countries encouraged an increase of production, -and they succeeded to such a degree that those countries produced more wheat than was needed to meet their own requirements. In 1933, France exported 1,500,000 tons of wheat. [Extension of time granted.”] In Germany, wheat was denatured, and wheat prices the world over fell to a disastrous level in 1929-30. The position in Europe being what it is to-day, a greater inducement than ever will be provided for the production of as much wheat as possible; and that must have repercussions oh. Canada, Argentina and Australia. Our production methods must be efficient if we are to be prepared for the possible fall of prices. Unless the bill be based on prices that would make it possible for the government of the day to meet a period of low prices without seriously affecting the internal economy of the country, the growers and the people of Australia will be facing a serious risk.
– Does the honorable member intend to deal with the bill?
– I heard a great deal from the honorable member about the right of the grower to export his product at remunerative prices. What the honorable member argues now with regard to wheat has equal application to labour. Why not export labour, if shipping could be made available for that’ purpose? The basic wage in the United States of America is equivalent to £21 a week. Within the last week or fortnight, I heard disapproval expressed by members of the Opposition because cloth was being exported to the disadvantage of ex-servicemen and other civil users, in order to obtain a high price for it. It would be wise for the wheat-growers to refuse to be led astray by the fallacious arguments of the honorabl emember for Indi.
Sitting suspended from 5.J$ to 8 p.m.
– This bill represents another step in the long and chequered history of the wheat industry in Australia. This afternoon we heard a statement delivered with great clarity and some force by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) ; but nowhere in the whole of his speech did he offer either praise or criticism of the bill. Within the lifetime of almost every member of this House, and certainly within the recollection of all those connected with the wheat industry, great changes have taken place in its organization, in marketing methods and in the degree and nature of government interference with the industry.
Let us go back to the period immediately before the outbreak of the 1914-18 war. At that time, there was no talk of pools or of government interference. The grower could select his land anywhere he liked, and on it he sowed whatever area of wheat he liked. The only market was the open market. During the first world war the farmers, for the first time, found themselves * obliged by law to surrender to the Government all the wheat they grew. The wheat was put into pools, which Were managed indifferently. Not so much was known then as now about the control of weevils and mice, with the result that losses of wheat were very heavy, and the resulting political bitterness had its repercussions in the Commonwealth Parliament. Immediately after the conclusion of the first world war, a great battle’ took place as to whether the system of compulsory pooling should continue, whether there should be a voluntary pool, or whether the system of open marketing should be restored. Those engaged in the industry were still debating these propositions up to the time of the disastrous drought of 1927-29. Then,’ in 1930, when the season was good and crops were abundant, there came the price crash due to the depression. It was then that the industry entered a new phase of political development, a phase through which we are still passing, and of which this bill is the culmination. The growers, through no fault of their own, but because of low prices, were not able to meet their commitments. Many became insolvent and had to go off their farms. The Chief Secretary in the Hill Labour Government in South Australia, who was in office at the same time as the honorable member for Ballarat was a Minister in Victoria, visited Jamestown, in the north of the State, and told the farmers that the only remedy for them was to go through the bankruptcy court.
– He had a Tory Legislative Council to contend with.
– He was himself a member of the Legislative Council, and the Government had a large majority. When the price of wheat fell, a royal commission was appointed by the Lyons Government, and it brought in a voluminous report and made numerous recommendations; but, as often happens in such cases, nothing much was done about’ it. The fortunes of the wheat industry change from year to year, and what might be a good remedy in 1935 might have no application at all in, 1936 or 1937 by the time the Government applies the remedy. As the honorable member for Ballarat remarked, the year 1930 was notable for an attempt by the Scullin Government to do something for the benefit of the wheat industry, but the honorable member did not tell the whole story. He told only that part which was of use for the purpose of Labour propaganda. The, fly in the ointment was that the proposal of the Scullin Government to guarantee a price of 4s. a bushel for wheat, a proposal which the Senate rejected on the deciding vote of the late Senator E. B. Johnston, provided that each State government should bear half the cost of putting the scheme into effect. The Commonwealth Government was itself virtually insolvent at that time, so it can.be imagined that the various State governments were in an even worse position. In particular, the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia, with their small populations and large wheat production, were in a worse position than New South Wales and Victoria. The honorable member for Ballarat referred to an interview with the late Sir Robert Gibson, and to the fact that Sir Robert declared that he would not lend money to the Government of New South Wales led by Mr. Lang. If the honorable member had been a director of the Commonwealth Bank at that time, would he have lent money to Mr. Lang?
– On a sound proposition, yes.
– I should like the honorable member to say whether he would regard any of the propositions which Mr. Lang put forward at that time as sound. It was also proposed to stabilize the industry, to provide for debt adjustment, and to fix a home-consumption price for wheat. To listen to some honorable members opposite one might be excused for believing that no government other than the present one, had ever attempted to do anything for the wheat industry. When the flour tax legislation was first before Parliament, the Labour party voted solidly against it. Later, indeed, a Labour government abolished the tax. Then the war came, and a government of which I was not a member found it necessary to adopt measures to control the agricultural assets of Australia, in our own interests, and in those of the United Kingdom. It was stated this afternoon that a very “low price was paid for wheat stocks then on hand in Australia, and it has been suggested that the reason for not paying more, in accordance with the recommendations of Judge Payne, was that the wheat was held by merchants and speculators, and not by the farmers. I put it to honorable members opposite that “they cannot stand on two different grounds. Either the wheat was owned by the growers and the Menzies Government did an injustice to them, or the present Government did an injustice to them when it refused to carry into effect the recommendations of Judge Payne who investigated this important matter. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) had something to say about the position of the wheat industry in this country in .1940. From March until October of that year, I was a member of the Menzies Ministry, and also, at that time, a member of the Australian Country party. The honorable member for Forrest referred to certain statements that I made atKatanning in Western Australia. His recollection is quite correct and is borne out by the fact that after the elections of 1940, my last ministerial act was to preside at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in Melbourne, at which the State Premiers and representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation agreed that my offer of 3s. 4d. a bushel at sidings for a crop of 140,000,000 bushels was good.
– Mr. Dunstan was Premier of Victoria at that time.
– Yes, and both Mr. Dunstan and Mr. Hogan were present at the conference. I have never been able to find out why that proposal was never given effect. Shortly afterwards I left the Government, and an entirely different scheme was introduced. The honorable member for Forrest said that we went to the country without a wheat policy.
– No. I said that the honorable member had promised that he would endeavour to have his scheme introduced, but that was not done and he left the ministry shortly afterwards.
– That is quite true. We did go to the country without a wheat policy and as a result the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) were elected to this Parliament. A booklet written by Mr. Allan Holt, published recently in Victoria with the assistance of the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction includes an interesting quotation from Socrates that should be taken to heart by my friends opposite, and by every man who aspires to Commonwealth politics - “ Nobody is qualified to become a statesman who is entirely ignorant of the problems of wheat.” The problems of this industry cannot be solved by political discussions. They can be solved only by long-range action and I hope that the bill now before the House will be amended to give effect to some of the ambitions and aspirations that the Opposition parties have in common on this matter, and I hope, will have in common for some time to come.
The honorable member for Ballarat also criticized the method of administering the 1941 wheat crop of 153,000,000 bushels. He was referring to the extra 13,000,000 bushels above the quota of 140,000,000 bushels. If his criticism be well-founded, I ask him what must be his position in respect of crops handled under the Scully plan, where 30 per cent. of the growers produced 70 per cent. of the wheat, and received half the price that was guaranteed to 70 per cent. of the growers who produced 30 per cent. of the wheat? If ever an unjust plan was introduced into this Parliament, it was that one. I take the minds of honorable members opposite back to what they themselves advocated in 1940. In his policy speech, the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, stated- .
Reconstitution of the Australian Wheat Board, so as to provide for the growers electing their own representatives, will be our first major act in dealing with the wheat industry.
Our policy provides for -
This would mean that should the world price for wheat reach, say, 4s. 101/2d. a bushel, 6d. would go to the grower and the other6d. would be retained by the pool for the purposes enumerated.
In order to protect the consumer, millers would pay a special price of 4s. a bushel, irrespective of any increase or decrease in world price, thus ensuring that the public will be able to get bread at a reasonable price. This plan makes the flour tax unnecessary and it will, therefore, disappear.
– Our achievements are more important than our statements.
– I would be interested to know of the achievements. I was interested also to learn of the criticism by a high official of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture of
Labour’s plan as propounded by its then leader. His comments were these -
On the question of a home-consumption price of 4s. a bushel, I point out that normally two-thirds of our wheat is exported, so that, in effect, what the homeconsumption price would have done, would have been to have increased the over-all price by one halfpenny a bushel from the delectable figure of 3s. 10½d. a bushel to a retail trader’s price of 3s. lida bushel. That was the Labour party’s method of dealing with the wheat industry in 1940. Its members tried to offer something to the grower - certainly they offered a bribe to the consumer. . They were angling for the consumers’ vote, but they also wanted the growers vote. It is equally true that we asked the growers to make a sacrifice. The Labour party offered a bribe and in these circumstances it is not difficult to understand who is likely to come off best. I believe that there was no necessity for either a sacrifice or a bribe. The proper thing to do was to pay the grower in time of war a reasonable price for his product, because after all, military operations cannot be carried on for very long by any country unless it has adequate food supplies.
I come now to the measure now before the House. It is a very important bill. It was not conjured out of the air. It has an interesting history, part of which is known to the public, and part is not known. I do not think that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) will endeavour to deny that he met representatives of the wheat industry in Sydney and elsewhere and discussed this measure with them, or that the bill that he has presented to Parliament is not the proposal that he bad in mind originally. In my opinion the bill has certain serious faults. First, there is the question of the inclusion of the 1945-46 crop. I have been informed by Mr. H. K. Nock, a former Minister in this House, who was present at the deputation to the Prime Minister in April, 1945 - the Prime Minister first having refused to meet the wheat-growers - that the right honorable gentleman gave an undertaking that the full realization price would be paid for the 1945-46 crop. Mr. Nock was present at that deputation, and I have his authority to use that information.
– I was present too, and 1 have not spoken before on that matter. I shall give the true story.
– The Minister will have an opportunity to do that later. This matter has a direct bearing on one of the important points in the scheme. Furthermore, . I say that the 1945-46 crop was sown, grown, and practically reaped, under war conditions, and delivered to the Commonwealth, not by the free will of the growers, but under the force of the National Security Regulations.. Therefore the Government has no justification morally, or, I believe, legally, to take from the grower what is his right under the National Security Regulations. There is also the question of a wheat stabilization policy being submitted to a ‘poll of growers. I believe that if the words we have heard so often from honorable members on the other side of the House are to bear -any fruit, any practical results whatever, then the Government and its supporters who claim to be concerned about the growers should take their courage - if they have any - in both hand’s - if their hands are not already full - and submit this bill, direct to the wheat-growers and obtain their opinion upon it. I would not be surprised if the verdict of the growers would be far from what honorable members opposite would desire it to be. This bill does not provide for a stabilization plan at all ;. it is merely a taxing measure. It proposes to take away from the grower at a time when high prices are ruling - and high prices may rule for some time ahead - a considerable amount of money and place it in the Treasury for use against some future contingency. The
Minister’s second-reading speech on this bill contained one of the most serious contradictions I have ever heard in this chamber. In introducing the bill the Minister said - 1
The effect will be to remove the feature which disturbed the industry most in the past: that is, the impact of unduly low prices. It will be replaced by a system under which wheat-farmers will know, for a period of years in advance, that they will receive a definite price for. their wheat. They can plan their farm programme with an assured return, and with the knowledge that they will not be ruined by market .changes which cannot be foreseen or controlled.
Later he made this staggering statement -
It is not proposed, nor intended, that returns shall be permanently out of line with the export price, nor that the industry will be continually subsidized. Two-thirds of our wheat goes on to the export market, and we must compete with other countries for our markets. The plan gives time for adjustments to meet changing world conditions, and it protects growers against a rapid fall on the export market. It cannot relieve them of the need to meet world competition in the export trade. It is hoped, however, that an effective international agreement will protect export markets in future. For the next five years, however, come what may in the export field, growers are guaranteed the effect of a world slump. They will not receive, in any one of the five years less than 5s. 2d.
Those two statements constitute” one of the most amazing contradictions of policy I have ever heard uttered in this chamber. I do not know how many honorable members opposite representing wheat districts can read the Minister’s introductory speech and reach any conclusion other than the one I have arrived at. The next point is the question of hidden legislation. The manner in which this bill has been presented to this House is, to say the least, - peculiar. During the Minister’s second-reading speech on the bill now before us reference was made to the Wheat Export Charge Bill, but that measure was not brought before us until about a fortnight later. Usually cognate bills of that description would be introduced simultaneously. In this instance, however, we are still further in the dark because we do not know the contents of the legislation which will be submitted to the State parliaments. Whilst it is not competent for us to be supplied with advance copies of measures which may be introduced into the State parliaments it is surely within the competency of Ministers, having had two or three conferences with State Ministers on this subject, to indicate the principles of the legislation . which will be introduced into the State parliaments. Then, having obtained an outline of’ those principles, and having the two cognate bills before us, we can determine exactly how the legislation as a whole will work out. At present we are asked to pass two bills in complete ignorance of what is to be done in the State- spheres.- We can guess, and perhaps our guess may be fairly near the mark; but that is not good enough. One of the things about which we have not been given any information is the question. of the future expansion of the wheat industry. That has not been referred to during this debate beyond the general statement that opportunities will be given to farmers’’ sons . and ex-soldier settlers to enter the industry. I should like tq be assured on that point. I am not at all sure that that is to be provided for in the legislation to be passed by the States and until that legislation is sighted by us we do’ not know whether or not that aspect is satisfactorily covered. I do not wish to raise the ex-soldier settler question unduly; I merely content myself with pointing out that there are thousands of young men being discharged from the forces who will wish and will be entitled to grow wheat in Australia and that they should be given some preference in order to enable them to do so. When I look at the present Government, I often say to myself that, as far as the ex-soldier is concerned, he may or may not “ get a go “. And when I look at the front bench on, the Government side, I also say to myself that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a returned soldier to pass through the Cabinet door into a Labour government.
– Order !
– Then there is the position of the grower who will be taxed heavily to build up a fund which will be entirely in government hands and entirely at the government’s disposal. That fund will not be an Australian fund ; it will be built up in London as the result of exports made to other parts of the world. Therefore, the Australian wheat-grower will be contributing 2s. 2d. a bushel to build up London funds, the utilization of which will be entirely at the discretion of the Commonwealth Government for the next five years, and beyond that time if the scheme is still in existence. That is a position we cannot tolerate with equanimity. There is the position, too, of the individual grower. Supposing after making two or three years’ contributions a grower meets the Grim Reaper, or at best he retires from the wheat-growing industry. It has been argued that a grower should not be allowed to take his land out of wheat production. I shall be extremely surprised if the measures to be submitted to the State parliaments will contain any provision, even to compel a grower to sow his licenced acreage. Unless a grower is compelled to do that, one could not argue against him going out of the wheatgrowing industry altogether. If having contributed for several years and having built up certain funds some one in authority says to him, “ Too bad old boy; you go out and get nothing “ ; What is his position? We have not had any information from the Government on that point and I am afraid there will be many awkward questions coming from growers with respect to it. In regard to the question of the home consumption price I remind honorable members that it was laid down in the Gepp report, to which reference was made this afternoon; that on a’n average, the cost of producing’ wheat was then 3s. 6d. a bushel f.o.r. ports. When one deals with the question of the cost of production, especially in a wide-spread industry such as the wheat industry, one can only hope at best to get a rough average. I say, however, that considering the general economic conditions which prevail in Australia, and the protection afforded to secondary industries, by bounties and tariffs, and so on, and the protection provided by Arbitration Court awards for the average working man, that the time has come when the growers of Australian wheat are entitled to the full average costs of production plus a margin of profit for that portion of the crop which is consumed within the Commonwealth. I believe that before very long the present
Government - or, maybe, its successorswill be obliged to formulate and introduce legislation making such a provision. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) raised the vexed question of the sale of wheat to other industries at a price below the market value. That cost will remain a burden upon the growers. It is bad business morally to expect growers of wheat, or of any other product, to make it available to any other industry at a price below the fair market price. I doubt very much whether the Government will succeed in pleading that case with the wheat-growers. It would be unprofitable to buy wheat at the present price of about 10s. a bushel, the highest that I remember, in order to produce eggs and pork; but that is no justification for the Government saying that those commodities must be produced and wheat-growers must supply wheat at half the market rate in order that they shall be produced. That kind of business and political morality will not go down with the wheatgrowers. The guaranteed price is to be 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. for a period of five years. The Minister has not told us how that figure was arrived at, or whether the Government consulted the stars, or pulled the figure out of a hat or whether it went back to the much abused Lyons Flour Tax Act and made the selection there. The Government has made no explanation as to how it arrived at that figure. As to the duration of the scheme, I believe that .a period of five years is too short. It would be better to remove wheat, if possible, from the arena of party politics. However, a period of ten, or even seven years, would be preferable. .
– The honorable member will accept the five-year period.
– The Government, of course, has the numbers to force the bill through the Parliament; but I remind the honorable member that in the last Parliament, when the, numerical strengths of parties were different, the Government was most complacent ‘ and obliging. It was then prepared to give the Opposition almost anything. I am of .the opinion that after the next elections, should f«ie be so unkind as to return the present Government, its numerical strength will be sadly reduced and honorable members opposite will be in a much more accommodating frame of mind than we have found them to be in this Parliament.
T turn now to a matter which requires to be cleared up. I refer to the clause in the bill which deals with the premium which is to be paid for wheat of a special quality. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, di’d not explain the meaning of that clause. I was a grower of wheat for over twenty years, and I sold wheat to flour-millers at a premium of 3d. a bushel. But that is not the normal trade practice in. Australia. It is the normal trade practice in Canada and the United States of America. In those countries a grower is paid according to the quality of his wheat when it is delivered. Every good farmer would be perfectly happy to see instituted in Australia a system under which a grower was paid for his’ wheat according to quality. The clause to which I refer hints at the institution of such a system, but does not say whether that system is to be carried out.
– The greatest opponents of that system in the past, have been the wheat merchants.
– I would be interested to hear my friend accuse me of being a supporter of the wheat merchants. The clause hints at a system under which wheat will be” paid for according to quality.
– That system has been followed for many years past.
– I am not aware of it. -I ask any honorable member who is a wheat-grower to tell me what price he has received from the pool for wheat above fair average quality. I have received a premium, but not from the pool.
– Black-marketing !
– An interjection of that kind from a Minister is a little bit “ over the fence “. That is not a statement which should be made by a Minister. I have received from the firm of Pflaum Brothers, Birdwood, a premium of as much as 3d. a bushel above fair average quality for wheat of a higher quality. If this system is to bc introduced, jet it be .introduced as a system. To-day, it seems to depend on whether the Minister, or the Australian Wheat Board, thinks fit that it should be paid for a parcel of wheat. In the wheat trade a parcel is 500 tons. No grower will ever deliver’ 500 tons. Does this mean that after the grower has passed in his wheat as fair average quality, a particular parcel can be got together by the board ? The Minister should clarify the clause.
– The honorable member just does not understand the position with respect to the payment of a premium.
– I admit freely that there are many things in the measure which I cannot understand ; and there will be a lot of people in Australia who will be in the same position as myself in that respect. I assure the Minister that at the committee stage, when we are dealing with the measure clause by clause and line by line, he will be given full opportunity to explain many things.
The last point with which I wish to deal is the future of the industry. That is one of the most, interesting aspects about the industry, and one on which the Government has been singularly silent up to date. After the war of 1914-1S great changes took place in the wheat industry throughout the world. We saw the disappearance from world trade of Russia,one of the great producers of wheat which has only once intruded upon th market in the last twenty years, namely, iri 1923. After the conclusion of World War II. we see other great changes taking place in the wheat industry due to the victory of that power. The whole of the wheatlands of Germany, Poland, Hungary, Roumania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia have passed under the control of Russia. In the division of Germany between the Allies the wheat and rye growing areas have passed under Russian control, but the great majority of the people who have to eat that wheat ‘and rye has passed under the control of the United States of America, Great Britain and France. To-day, there is no traffic on the river Danube, which is one of the great wheat arteries of the world. The wheat produced in Roumania, Bulgaria. Hungary, and a part of Yugoslavia used to be taken upstream to Germany and Austria ; but owing to Russian action that traffic has ceased completely. To-day,- the Danube is a closed river. In view of the policy carried out by Russia in the past, what is to be the future of the wheat industry of Europe, and the availability of European-grown wheat to those parts of Europe which stand outside the Russiancontrolled zone? If Russia carries out the policy which it followed after World War I. that wheat will be denied to the rest of Europe. . This will throw upon the other wheat-growing countries of the world a much greater effort to supply wheat, but I suspect that in that instance, as in all other instances, world wheat policy will be dictated by the Russian Foreign Office. In a time of plenty, surplus wheat from Poland, the Balkans and Germany will be thrown on the European market in order to create unrest among the peasants, whereas when wheat is scarce grain from the Russiancontrolled areas will be denied, except at high prices, to the workers in the big cities of Europe in order to cause dissatisfaction. To-day in Europe exist some of the most explosive factors which could be introduced into any international situation. It should pay honorable members, especially those representing wheat areas, to investigate that phase of the subject.
The next thing I have to deal with is the influence of mechanization on wheat production, not only in the Balkans, Germany and Poland, but throughout the world. After the 1914-18 war we did not have anything like the degree of mechanization that we have to-day. Yet we saw the building up of wheat supplies. The degree of mechanization in Russia is extensive, but not so great as in the United States of America and Canada. But Argentina is well behind. The May issue of Broomhill’ s Com Magazine shows that Argentina wheat acreage is down because Argentina does not have the machinery with which to sow to its full capacity. The journal also sets out the position in Europe. In Greece ,the bread allowance for an adult male has been reduced to 9 oz. a day, and in Vienna the position is worse, because in May, the allowance was reduced to 24 oz. a week. In other words, three-quarters of a 2-lb’. loaf has to last an .adult male a week. Honorable members will see that .there is every justification, with the hunger that
Europeans are suffering, for increased wheat acreages and no justification for limitation of acreages in any wheatproducing country. It would be un-Christian uncharitable and unthinkable to restrict production of any commodity wanted for human consumption. The enigma is what will be the policy of the Soviet. It controls at least 30 per cent, of the world’s “wheat outside its own borders, 12£” per cent, of the world’s maize in Yugoslavia, Rumania and Bulgaria, where maize is grown to a much greater extent than wheat, and 90 per cent, of the world’s rye. Its stranglehold, if it cares to use it, on the grain supplies of the world is serious. I am not going to prophesy how long the . crisis will last. I do not know the factors that will go towards determining wheat supplies and consumption, but I do know that the degree of mechanization is much greater than it was after the pre- vious world war, fertilizers are better understood, wheat varieties have improved, and larger and faster ships can take more wheat more rapidly from where it is grown to where it is needed for human consumption. The trend, in my opinion, will be towards a quicker recovery in Europe, than is perhaps allowed for in certain quarters here. I have an abiding faith in the peasants of Europe to stand up to hard . conditions and get the crops in when the onus is placed upon them. But I do not know by what number of thousands the wheateating peoples of Europe have been re- duced as the result of war and the famine that is stalking through different parts of Europe. That is an important factor. I am not attempting to deal with Asia. That is another story. Tt ha3 to do with rice. This bill deals with wheat. I do not know the damage that may have been done to land, plant and stock. I doubt whether any man in Australia has the correct picture of those factors. So I say we can go on with this measure only from year to year. In my opinion, there will be no great danger of wheat prices falling below perhaps 6s. a bushel until we have visible world supplies of not less than 600,000,000 bushels iii store. So far as our local economy is concerned, I do not know what will be the trend of costs of production, but I am fairly confident that costs will increase as the- result of policies enforced and the inflationary system in being to-day. Therefore, however payable prices may be to-day or may have been before the war, the Australian wheat-growing community has to look forward to higher costs of production and higher prices to meet those costs in the years not very far ahead.
.- I rise to speak on this most important bill, not as a politican, but as a wheat-farmer of long experience. I was surprised by the arguments advanced on this bill by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). Forty years ago I carted wheat 40 miles for ls. 7d. a bushel. From that day to this wheat has been a political football. The Labour party is the only party that has made a genuine effort to better the position of the wheatgrowers and to stabilize wheat prices. When the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was Leader of the Opposition he urged that the Bruce-Page Government stabilize the price of wheat at 5s. a bushel for five years. Unfortunately that was not done. A few months later, when the right honorable gentleman succeeded to the Prime Ministership, one of the first legislative acts proposed by his Government and passed through this House was a measure guaranteeing a reasonable price to the wheat-farmers for one year. Although (he Labour party had a majority in this chamber, it was in the minority in the Senate, which rejected the bill’ with consequent disaster to the wheat industry. I refer to that matter not- because the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) told the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) that he had not told the whole story. That may be so, but the honorable member for Barker did not tell the whole story either, because he did not tell the House that the Commonwealth Bank was willing to finance the scheme proposed under that measure. The late Sir . Robert Gibson, as chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, said that he considered that the private banks should assist in financing il>-n scheme but that if they failed to do so, the Commonwealth Bank would take the whole burden. Notwithstanding ‘ that, that bill was defeated by the so-called Country party members in the Senate. It was and is a country party in name only. I pass on to the depression years. The worst period of Australia’s history was the decade between 1930 and 1940. During most of that period non-Labour governments were in office, and had a majority in each’ House of the Parliament. These governments professed to have the interests of’ the wheat-growers at heart, but they did nothing to stabilize the wheat industry. They could have done something then along the lines suggested during this. debate by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Barker. It is strange that honorable members opposite should criticize the present Government for not doing things which they themselves failed to do when in office. When a Labour government took over the reins of office the wheat industry was at the lowest ebb in its history, yet honorable members opposite have’ the audacity to criticize the present Government, which has done much for the wheat-growers of Australia. Do honorable members opposite think that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation does not know the cost of producing wheat? Members of the federation know more about that subject than do some honorable members opposite, who scarcely know the difference between a bag of wheat and a bag of oats. When the present Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister farmers who had wheat in No. 1 pool received from ls. 5d. to 2s. 2d. a bushel for it. The fact is that previous governments robbed the farmers of large sums. No fair-minded man would say that 2s. 2d. a bushel was a fair price for wheat, even in those days, or that that price covered the cost of production. Those who criticize the present Government for its treatment of the wheat industry are more concerned about political propaganda than about the interests of the wheatgrowers. I regard Mr. H. K. Nock, a former member for the electorate of Riverina, as enemy No. 1 of the wheatgrowers of Australia, and I make no apologies for saying that. I remember well that during the regime of non-Labour governments the farmers of Australia fought hard in an effort to obtain 4s. a bushel for. the first 3,000 bushels of wheat produced by them. I attended many meetings of farmers at that time. There were also numerous deputations to the then government. About 80 per cent, of the wheat-growers of Australia are what are usually described as small farmers. They appealed to the then government for a price fo’r their wheat which would enable them to pay their way, but their appeal fell” on deaf ears. It remained for the present Government to give to the farmers a payable price for their wheat. Previous governments, consisting of the parties now in opposition, refused tq meet the farmers in any way, yet to-night honorable mem: bers who supported those governments say that more should be done for the wheat-growers. Could any action be more hypocritical? I remind honorable members opposite that the wheat-growers want more than talk; they want results, and they have had them from the Labour Government. The present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and I told the farmers that if a Labour government were elected it would see that 4s. a bushel was paid for the first 3,000 bushels of wheat produced by any wheat-grower. A Labour government wa§ elected, and that promise was honoured. A previous government brought in what it described as a wheat stabilization scheme, but it was not a plan at all. It did not even provide for a guaranteed price. Under it, a sum of £26,750,000 was set aside for an estimated crop of 140,000,000 bushels. I said at the time that that plan did not guarantee 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b., as was claimed- for it. Under that so-called scheme, no farmer could say what he would get for his wheat. All sorts of false statements were made regarding that scheme, both in this Parliament and in the newspapers. It was claimed that it provided for a guaranteed price for wheat, but it did not do so. Farmers were told that they would be paid for only 140,000,000 bushels, although the crop amounted to 153,000,000 bushels. . The president of the Farmers and Settlers Association told farmers at Temora that in the event of the crop exceeding 140,000,000 bushels the sum of £26,750,000 would be spread over the whole crop. It will be seen, therefore, that there was no guaranteed price for wheat at that time. Fortunately for the farmers of Australia, the non-Labour government that had not interested itself in their welfare was putout of office and a Labour government which paid the guaranteed price for the * total wop of 153,000,000 bushels took its place. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation is truly representative of the wheat-growers of Australia, because only persons who have planted at least 50 acres of wheat can be members of the organization. The Farmers and Settlers Association, on the other hand, does not confine membership to practical farmers, and the result is that any one can be a member and not have at heart the interests of the wheat-growers. At a conference held in Sydney the present Government submitted to representatives of wheatgrowers a plan which was not acceptable to the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. The Government’s proposal was for 4s. 8d. a bushel f.o.b., but the federation did not think that the price was high enough. That was my view also. Representatives of the federation discussed the matter with the Government, with the result that the Government agreed to a guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.b. It was also’ agreed that the 1945*46 harvest should be included in the guarantee on a fifty-fifty basis. It is incorrect to say that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation is not in favour . of this bill. For the information of wheatgrowers, I place on record the names of the delegates who attended the conference held in “Sydney on the 11th December, 1945. They . were. - H. T. Chapman (South Australia), W. J. Marshman (South Australia) ; J.’ E. Maycock (South Australia), C. T. Chapman (South Australia), E. Walker (Western . Australia), F. Rooke (Western Australia), K. Jones (Western Australia), J. W. Diver (Western Australia), H. K. Nock (New South Wales), H. S. Roberton (New South Wales), T. P. Gleeson (New South Wales), G. Gibbons (New South Wales)’, F. H. Cullen (Victoria). T. W. Lilley (Victoria),. and T. C. Stott the general secretary. They represented the wheat-growers of Australia, and they accepted the Government’s plan. Yet the honorable member for Indi and other honorable gentlemen opposite considered that those delegates were not capable of -representing the wheat-growers and did :not have authority to accept the plan. I state definitely that they were so authorized. Unfortunately, some of the gentle- * men who attended that conference have since condemned the plan. Unfortunately, some of the gentlemen who were present at the conference, which agreed to the plan by a majority vote, have since criticized the scheme. In my opinion their views are not worthy of consideration. Some opponents of the plan deliberately make untrue statements for the purpose of misleading the wheatgrowers as to the actual position.
I compliment the Government on having made a genuine effort to stabilize the wheat industry. In my experience, which extends over many years,- this is the best plan that has been devised in the interests of wheat-growers. Some honorable members opposite complained that the plan will expire after five years. That view is not correct. . The plan may continue for ten or fifteen years, but it will be reviewed after two or three years. Time brings strange changes. The price of wheat may rise to 5s. or -6s. a bushel, or fall sharply to 2s. a bushel. However, the Government has guaranteed to wheatgrowers a price of 4s”. 6d. or 4s. 7d. a bushel at country stations or sidings for the next five years, irrespective of the fluctuations of price on overseas markets. If Australian wheat-growers were given an opportunity to express their views regarding this plan, they would approve it by a large majority. Of course, a few wheatgrowers arc not in favour of it, but it is impossible to obtain complete unanimity. There is always a recalcitrant minority. If the Labour Government offered them £1 a bushel for wheat and 10s. per lb. for wool they would oppose the suggestion on principle. Their attitude reminds me of the reasoning of the Irishman, whose mate said, “It is a splendid rain.” “ “Where is it coming from ? “ asked the Irishman. From the south,” replied his mate. “ It will not be- any good, then,” declared the Irishman. Some opponents of the Government’s plan are so “one-eyed “ that they do not believe that the Labour party can assist the primary producer in any way. I assert that this Government has done a great deal for the man on the land, whether he is growing wheat, wool, rice or fruit, or is raising fat lambs. Although, under this plan, the Government offers wheat-growers a guaranteed price, honorable members opposite declare that the Minister is not sincere. In turn, they have been members of the Conservative party, National party, United Australia party and Liberal party, and have supported coalition governments, but over the years there has been only one Australian Labour party. Every time we have had an opportunity to help the man on the land, we have improved his standard of living and made him happier and more content.
When, at a later date, the Minister reviews this bill, I should like him to consider the advisability of inserting a safeguard against a sharp decline of price, as has occurred in the past. Provision should be made for a guaranteed price of 4s. 3d. a bushel at country sidings for the first 3,000 bushels. If that be done, the small wheat-grower will always he able to enjoy a reasonable standard of living and meet his obligations. In advocating that view, I speak on behalf of the small wheat-grower. The large wheat-grower is able to ‘make, his living in other ways. With the mechanization of industry, particularly of farming,” wheat- could be overproduced in Australia in perhaps two years. Honorable members opposite have referred to the position of the wheat industry after World War I., but. I remind them that wheat farming now is vastly different from what it was 25 years ago.. Two men with a tractor can work as large an area in the same period as four eight-horse teams can do. Machinery is also more economical. I hope that the Minister will give careful consideration to my request.
Honorable members opposite never inform the House what they did to improve the conditions of the wheat-grower. I shall remind the House of their tinsympathetic attitude. When the price of wheat was 2s. 3d. a bushel, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) who was then a Minister refused the request of a deputation representing wheat-growers to submit to Cabinet a request for an increase of price, for fear that it would embarrass the Government. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), when the price of wheat was only 2s. 6d. a bushel, declared emphatically that the Government, could no.t provide any money to increase the return to the grower. Yet both honorable members to-day declared that 4s. 7d. a bushel at sidings is insufficient. I conclude that those honorable gentlemen desire only to mislead wheatgrowers at the forthcoming general elections. That is my honest opinion. If they were genuinely concerned about the condition of the wheat-growing industry, they would not have allowed it to sink to such a low ebb when they were in office. They speak, not for the wheat-grower, lui t for the great combines of the world that have robbed the farmers from the cradle to the grave. Wheat-growers have always been the slaves of the merchants; and honorable members opposite desire that they should so remain. They also complained about the representation of growers on the Australian Wheat Board. Before .the Labour Government took office, the majority of members of the hoare! were the mouth-pieces of the great combines. Now, I am pleased to say, the majority of the members are the representatives of the wheat-growers, and that alteration is due solely to the policy of the. Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. He promised the wheat-growers that if the Labour party were returned to office, he would reconstitute the board. He honoured his promise. If honorable members opposite had remained in office, the wheat-growers would, not have that representation.
I compliment the Government and the Minister on having formulated this plan. It will enable wheat-growers to enjoy a reasonable standard of living, and will place wheat stabilization on a sound footing. The bad legislation of anti-Labour administrations, which refused to guarantee to wheat-growers a fair price, caused untold misery in the industry, and drove despairing farmers to commit suicide. Speaking from memory I believe that 8,000 farmers abandoned their properties during the ten-year period of -low prices. At that time, United Australia party and United Country- party governments were in office in the Commonwealth and
New South Wales. I believe that 3,000 wheat-farmers in South Australia, and about the same number in Victoria, went off the land. Honorable members opposite say that we must stop the drift of population from the country to the cities. Who drove the farmers from the country to the cities but the so-called Australian Country party, which would not give them an opportunity to remain on the land? Every fair-minded man and woman in Australia must agree that the wheat-growers have had a very bad deal from past governments and a good deal from this Government. I have not the slightest doubt that at the next general elections the present administration will be returned to office with a large majority, not on what it has said but on what it has done, not only during the war, but also since the termination of the conflict in the rehabilitation of the people of Australia. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill. I again compliment the Minister on his honesty and sincerity in fulfilling every promise that he made when he assumed office. I hope that he will remain in his present position for a long time, and thus ensure to the wheatgrowers the just price for their product to which they are entitled.
– Judging by the remarks of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry), one would assume that there is not a bill before the House; because the whole of his speech was devoted to self-praise and a eulogy of the Government without producing any evidence in support of his contentions. We have not heard very much of the recent history of the wheat industry, including the operation of the iniquitous Scully scheme. The honorable member for Riverina seemed to set himself out to decry the Australian Country party. He is well aware that that party will wrest his seat and a. few more country seats from ministerial supporters. There is a vital difference between the Australian Country party and the Australian Labour party in the matter of stabilization. The Australian Country party stands for grower-controlled, orderly marketing schemes, whereas the Australian Labour party stands for departmentally controlled schemes. In a speech which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) made in 1940, he said this-
I have yet to witness the successful operation of a wheat scheme under departmental supervision.
I entirely agree with that. There has been departmental supervision in recent years, I shall not delve into ancient history in regard to this industry, because T do not know enough about it. But I am’ acquainted with the iniquities that were associated with the Scully wheat scheme, and I say definitely that Queensland bore the full brunt of them, receiving neither consideration nor wheat. That State was not allowed to grow wheat “at 4s. a bushel beyond ‘3,000 bushels excepting at a price beyond the cost of ‘ production. On the Minister’s own statement, millions of bushels were imported into Queensland from the southern States at 5s. 7d. a bushel. His iniquitous scheme was responsible for a continuous decline of production, until eventually Australia was placed in a desperate position in regard to supplies of wheat. Production declined from 153,000,000 bushels, first to 143,000,000 bushels, then to 90,000,000 bushels, and then to 67,000,000 or 57,000,000 bushels - I am not sure which is the correct figure. In another year, Australia would not have had any wheat at all. “We do not hear ministerial supporters eulogizing that scheme. They go back 20 or 30 years; their minds lie dormant in the past. I stand for the stabilization of the wheat industry and of all other primary industries. I defy any one to prove that I have not been consistent in that attitude in all my public activities.
– It was a Labour government in Queensland which first introduced stabilization schemes.
– The honorable member has Labour governments on the brain, and cannot see beyond them. He is blind to facts. I am not happy about some of the provisions of the bill, because they do not remove the anomalies that were revealed in the very unhappy period through which the industry has recently passed. The amendment of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has my complete approval, because it seeks to remove many of the anomalies that have been untouched by the bill. If I understand the attitude of the Queensland grower-elected wheat board, it is in entire agreement with the amendment, although it was not aware of the intention to bring it forward in its present form.
– Then how can the honorable member say that it is in entire agreement with the amendment?
– I had a discussion with one of the members of the board, and he intimated to me what its attitude was.
– I had a discussion with all the members of the board; therefore, I know more about the matter than does the honorable member.’ ‘
– This -member of the Wheat Board in Queensland told me that he and his fellow members were entirely opposed to the inclusion in the scheme of the 1945-46 crop. Does the Minister deny that? I am opposed to retrospective legislation. There is no justification for the inclusion of the No. 9 pool in the scheme. If .the growers of the 1945-46 crop are denied the right to enjoy the existing high prices, the Government will have succeeded, by means of the iniquitous Scully scheme which I mentioned earlier,’ in preventing the growers of recent crops from securing the benefit of high prices, by the restriction of acreage and the use of the short crops entirely for home consumption. Now that we have a crop with a’ reasonable surplus, for which the growers could obtain high prices, the Government proposes to commandeer 50 per cent, of the receipts in excess of 5s. 2d. a bushel, and has thus deprived the growers of the right to recoup some of their losses. I admit the necessity to have a trust fund if an industry is to be stabilized. It is difficult to protect individual interests. The growers of the present day are providing considerable funds for the benefit of those who will be interested in growing wheat in the future. I have no hesitation in affirming that the price of wheat within the next few years will be satisfactory. My justification for that statement is the contract under which Great Britain has agreed to pay Canada 6s. 5d. a bushel for the next five years, which is really one year longer than the term proposed in this bill. With the prospects of a good market, and in view of the fact that in each year within the period for which the scheme will operate, it is likely that the growers will have to make a contribution to the fund, the whole of the stabilization trust fund will probably be provided by them, whilst the Government will not pay anything. In effect, the Government will make no contribution at all to the cost of stabilization, but will force the growers to make a contribution to% protect themselves. An analysis of the bill must prove that contention to be right.
There is another reason why the 1945-46 crop should not be included in the scheme. Recently this Parliament passed a States Grants (Drought Relief) Bill. The governments of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Government, have provided over £3,000,000 to assist cereal-growers who lost their crops through drought.
– Does the honorable member object to that?
– No, but I contend that growers should be allowed to recoup heavy losses incurred by drought. No doubt the Minister, who interjects will vote for this iniquitous proposal of the Government. Queensland wheatgrowers are in a worse position than those in other States. When I moved an amendment to include Queensland within the scope of the States Grants (Drought Relief) Bill, the Government rejected my proposal and every supporter of the Government from Queensland voted against primary producers in that State receiving assistance. Farmers in portions of the wheat-growing districts in my electorate suffered as much loss, as did farmers in the southern States. In the Roma and Chinchilla areas, severe drought was experienced for two years in succession. As no rain has fallen in the wheatgrowing areas of Queensland ‘this season, what will be the benefit of any price guaranteed under the scheme, if the farmers get no crop at all? Yet, under this proposal, Queensland growers who lost their crops for two years in succession, had one good season last year, and will have no crop this year, will be prevented from receiving the full benefit of their labours.
Another reason why the No. 9 pool should not be included is the fact that the Government acquired the wheat crops during the recent war under National Security Regulations. I readily grant that the acquisition of the wheat crop for food is vitally necessary in time of war, but it is a distinct breach of faith on the part of the Government to divert portion of the proceeds to a trust fund which has not relation to war needs. The High Courthas ruled that any property acquired under National Security Regulations must be paid for on just terms. With all due’ respect for legal opinion, if the growers took the Government to court on the matter, I have no doubt that they would be permitted to retain the full price received for their crops. Apart from the legal aspect, however, the matter must be considered from the moral aspect, and the fact that the Government has broken faith with the growers is deplorable. In view of the prospect- of good market prices prevailing during the term of the proposed agreement, I have no doubt, that ample sums will be paid into the trust fund by the growers, and that they will be sufficient during the period of the agreement to warrant the exclusion of the last crop.
– Does not the honorable member consider that that would be a desirable position.
– The Minister is concerned only that the Government shall receive sufficient in payments by the growers to relieve it of the necessity ‘ for making any contribution at all. My concern is to make the Government face up to its obligation, and also become a contributor.
The next matter is the term of the proposed agreement. This is unsatisfactory, because, whilst the bill stipulates a period of five years, the agreement, in fact, covers only four years, because the season 1945-46 has already passed. The last crop to be handled under the proposal is that of 1949-50, which makes the term one year shorter than that under the British-Canadian contract, which was completed at 6s. 5d. a bushel. The bill provides for a price which I regard as unsatisfactory. In effect, the price of 5s. 2d. f.o.r. is only equivalent to 4s. 3d. a bushel at growers’ sidings. With the present high prices prevailing, and the urgent need for wheat, the Government could readily accept the amendment desired by the Australian Country party and make the payment 5s. 2d. a bushel at growers’ sidings, with a share to the grower, on a 50V50- basis, of the proceeds from any surplus wheat as sales are made. Any figure that meets the circumstances of. to-day may be quite disproportionate to the costs of production in future years’. We can best protect the growers by guaranteeing to them a minimum price covering the cost of production ‘and a -fair margin of profit. That is the only : basis on which this or any other industry can survive and thrive. The present basis of arriving at the price of wheat is out of date. There is need for an authority to ascertain current costs of production so “that the Australian Wheat Board and the Government may be continually aware of those costs and of the circumstances of the farmers. Back in 1932-33, evidence was taken by the Gepp commission, which, after making an exhaustive inquiry, found that the cost of production at that time was 3s. 6d. a bushel. It must be remembered, however, that the commission allowed only £125 a year living expenses for the grower and his family, and I am sure, that no honorable member would suggest that such an amount would be adequate now. Also, the commission allowed only £1 a week wages and keep for a son employed on the farm by his father. That amount would also need to be adjusted. The cost of producing a bushel of wheat in 1938 was 5s. 2d., a figure which can be tested by any commission which may be appointed. The Gepp commission took into consideration all the items involved in the cost of production, including labour, interest, machinery, rates and taxes, insurance, rail freights, handling charges, seed wheat, cartage, superphosphates, bags, power and maintenance of farm and buildings. I would support any proposal, whether emanating from the ‘Minister or elsewhere, ‘to set up an authority to determine .the cost of production.
The proposal to continue a home consumption price for wheat may be necessary, having regard for Australia’s economy, but I’ object to the wheat-growers being compelled to make a sacrifice for this purpose whilst the Government evades its responsibility. Obviously, a home consumption price should be financed out of general revenue, to which the wheat-growers would contribute only in the proportion to their incomes. No other industry in the country would put up with such an arrangement. To-day, the export price of wheat- is over 10s. a bushel, but the farmers are not getting the benefit of it. At first, the restrictions imposed under the Scully plan prevented the industry from expanding, and it was further restricted by the shortage of labour and material, and by the effects of drought. Now. the Government, by this scheme, which amounts in part to confiscation, proposes to prevent the growers from recouping their losses. Under this cunningly devised scheme, the growers are required to pay. at the rate of 2s. 2d. a bushel into a trust fund, when they should bc receiving the money to enable them to make up for losses incurred in the past. The Minister, in his ;speech, forecast a continuance of restrictions - not, he said, by regulation; but he also predicted that gluts arising out of over-production would be prevented, and how is this to ‘be done except by regulation? Evidently, the Government intends so to regulate production as to avoid making any effective contribution out of the trust fund. The Minister, speaking in 1940 on the proposed wheat stabilization scheme, said -
So many restrictions will be placed on the industry that I am fearful of the result. One of the most objectionable features of the plan is the proposal to restrict the acreage to be sown next season. That, in itself, is a defeatist policy, and is strenuously opposed by the wheat-growers’ organizations.
I unreservedly endorse those sentiments. Regulations and restrictions have been the curse of the industry. Because of them Queensland farmers could not get feed wheat. Such wheat as was available went to users in the southern States, Queensland being unable to get any quantity, whether subsidized or not. The Minister seemed to suggest that the wheat board shall have on it a majority of growers’ representatives, but he did not say how it was to be elected, other than to state that it would be elected as prescribed. He said that State committees would be appointed by himself, and on this point I feel much concern. Does he mean that the Queensland board, elected by the growers, is to be superseded by a committee appointed by the Minister? The record of the Queensland Wheat Board is most creditable. For more than nineteen years it has maintained an average of 4s. 5d. a bushel to growers at sidings, as against the proposed price of 4s. 3d. under the present scheme. I hope that the Minister will allow the growers in Queensland to continue to elect their own board, which could act as a State committee under the general scheme. From the State committee the Minister could select a representative for the central board, but I should prefer that the growers should make the selection themselves. In fact, I regard that as a basic principle. Again I quote the words of the- Minister in 1940. The honorable gentleman cited the example of France, where he said primary producers had a majority representation, on marketing boards. -He also said that, where departmental officials dominated, he had yet to see the successful operation of any wheat scheme. Little has been said regarding the issuance of permanent wheat-growing licences to returned soldiers. The Minister passed, over that matter very lightly in his second-reading speech by saying -
Our normal pre-war basis of production can bc maintained and it will be practicable to include in the industry soldier settlers and farmers’ sons.
What steps has the Minister taken to make provision for these people? When I raised this matter in the House a few day ago, the Minister replied, by interjection, that the Commonwealth Government did not have power to grant permanent licences. It is true that the National Security Act will remain in force for a limited duration only, but if this measure has the full support of the States as the Minister has claimed, I see no reason why an arrangement could not be made for the granting by the States of permanent wheat-growing licences to exservicemen and sons of farmers who have been brought up in the industry and are entitled to make a living in it. There is an obligation on the Minister to clarify these points. The Commonwealth Government certainly is not making any attempt to inaugurate land settlement schemes for returned soldiers who wish to engage in wheat production, whereas private landholders are assisting the rehabilitation of- ex-servicemen by settling returned soldier share-farmers on their properties. ‘ Even when the heavy expense of clearing land and breaking the ground has been carried out, wheat-growing licences are not forthcoming. Lack of power on the part of the Commonwealth to grant these licences is no excuse in view of the fact that this legislation is to be implemented by the passage of cognate measures through the State parliaments. The main points of my opposition to this measure may be summarized as follows: First, I oppose retrospective action. The 1945-46 crop should not be included in this proposal. Secondly, there cannot be any real stability in a four-year period. The term therefore should be extended. Thirdly, the basis of price fixation should be the cost of production plus a fair margin of profit. Fourthly, from the inception of this plan ex-service personnel should be granted permanent licences to grow wheat. Fifthly, a competent authority should be set up to determine costs. Sixthly, the Australian Wheat Board and State committees should, be elected by . growers, and for a specified period in each instance. These authorities should not be subject to the direction and will of the Minister. Lastly, tha Government, and not the industry, should be responsible for any deficiency in the home-consumption price as compared with the world price. Let u3 by this legislation as we on this side of the chamber propose that it be amended, assist the industry to get out of its present difficulties and give to it the right to enjoy some of the advantages to be derived from the present high price of wheat and to move forward towards a stable and progressive future.
.- In expressing support of this measure I believe that I am voicing the opinion of 95 per cent, of Australian wheat-growers. The passage of this legislation by .the Commonwealth and State parliaments, if successfully accomplished, will mark the end of a long fight by wheat-growers for the stabilization of the wheat industry. The fight started when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), whilst Prime Minister of this country, applied the political axe to the wheat industry at the end of World War I. His expressed view at that time was that trade should revert to its normal channels. What he meant, of course, was that the wheat speculators of Sydney, Melbourne and other capital cities should be permitted once again to fix the return that Australian wheat-growers were to receive for their year’s labour. He omitted to say that no matter to what degree the price of wheat decreased, the merchants would receive preferential treatment. The belief of governments that have held office in this country for the greater part of the 45 years since Federation has been that so long as wheat merchants and other speculators in foodstuffs are happy and contented, in their suburban, mansions, all is well with the country. The attitude of the Nationalist party, later the United Australia party, and now the Liberal party, is traditional, and accounts for its rejection by country people, particularly primary producers. We deplore the attitude of the Liberal party towards primary industries. Obviously it renders service to the food speculators and other city interests that support it. Members of the Australian Country party in this Parliament are an unhappy and ungrateful body. They are supposed to favour organized marketing of wheat and other farm products ; but in practice the Australian Country party fights harder for portfolios than for organized marketing schemes. The first composite ministry in which the Australian Country party participated was formed in 1923. but the bargain did not include the passage of legislation for the organized marketing of wheat. Why? It included the allocation to the Australian Country party of a certain number of portfolios over which the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who was the Leader of the Australian Country party at that time haggled ; but there was no talk of wheat. Again I ask why ? The Bruce-Page Government remained in office until the end of 1929, but no wheat marketing scheme was introduced. In 1930 the Scullin Government introduced legislation for a compulsory wheat pool and guaranteed a payment of 4s. a bushel at sidings. That proposal was killed and by whom? It was not killed by the Labour party. We supported- it to a man. It was not killed by the Trades Hall, the coal miners, the wharf labourers, the shearers or the * farm workers, all of ‘ whom had been used from time to time by the Opposition as political bogeys. The cold truth is that certain representatives of the Australian Country party in the Senate joined forces with representatives of the United Australia party - now the Liberal party - in defeating the measure. It was the Australian Country party that killed the measure just as that party to-day is doing its utmost to kill the measure now before us. Iri the history of Australian polities there has never been a more gross betrayal than the betrayal of the wheat-growers by the Australian Country party. Its leaders have sent out organizers in motor cars metaphorically to run the farmer down and badger a subscription from him. It obtained money ostensibly for election purposes, but used its power to bargain for portfolios. The wheat-growers should have been given organized marketing at, the conclusion of the first world war. There would then have been no necessity for a royal commission to investigate the insolvent position of the industry; there would then have been no need to disgrace Australia by placing on- the statute-book . the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Acts. We would not have witnessed the sorry spectacle of wheat-growers beating a track to the Bankruptcy Court. Country towns would not have lost their populations. All of this, however, happened because members of the Australian Country party in this Parliament were more interested in portfolios than in measures designed to uplift the wheat-growers. When a royal commissioner investigated the wheat’ industry he found it in debt to an amount of £151,000,000. “When war broke out it was even still deeper in debt. If there had not been war, or if the Labour party had. not found its way to the treasury bench, the wheat-growers, undoubtedly, would still be lamenting. When war broke out wheat merchants were unable to finance the industry, so they gave the United Australia party the “ all clear “. The United Australia party Government then established the Australian Wheat Board, which, in the first place, was a wheat merchants’ hoard. I do not know whether they told the Government to “ weigh in light “ on the finances of the wheat-growers, but whether they did so or not the Menzies Government certainly treated the wheat-growers shockingly in that respect. The Australian Country party asked the Menzies Government to provide 2s. 6d. a bushel as a first advance. The right honorable mem-‘ ber for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) said that that was a lot of money, but that he would stretch a point. Then the honorable members for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and Bendigo (Mr.- Rankin) and other members of the Australian Country party paraded before their electors and told the wheatgrowers how fortunate it was that there were representatives of the powerful Australian Country party in the Commonwealth Parliament. The growers, they said, were being treated liberally by the Government. For the last harvest the present Labour Administration advanced the farmers 4s; 4d. a bushel at sidings. That was ls. lOd. a bushel more on delivery than the previous Administration had given them. Members of the Australian Country party now, however, say that 4s. 4d. a bushel is too little as a first advance. Their words and actions obviously lack sincerity. The real test of a party’s sincerity is what it does when it has power and not what it promises to do when it is in opposition. Measured by these standards, members of the Australian Country party should walk out of this chamber and look for a rope and the nearest tree. The right honorable member for Cowper, who presented the wartime wheat plan of the Menzies Government in ; this House, was quite proud of the measure. It provided a guaranteed, price of 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. and also provided that when the price of wheat for export exceeded that figure one-half of the proceeds should go to an equalization fund. The present Government suspended the operation of the equalization fund, shortly after it took office, a matter in respect, of which the right honorable gentleman took a doleful view. He expressed his disappointment in this chamber with accompanying “Hear, hears” from his colleagues. The facts are, however, that if the Government had not suspended the operations of the equalization fund wheat-growers would have made contributions from the Nos. 6, 7 and 8 pools. The returns from those pools are much lower than those which growers will receive from No. 9 pool. In their attempts to stimulate an agitation for the exclusion of No. 9 pool from the present five-year plan, members of the Australian Country party are again exploiting the wheat-growers for party political gain. After making contributions to the equalization plan from the 1945-46 crop, No. 9 pool, the grower will receive approximately 6s. 5d. a bushel f.o.b. for his wheat. Surely if there was a. case for deducting 50 per cent, of the excess price over 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. (here is a case for deducting an equivalent percentage over 5s. 2d. f.o.r. The fact that the grower will receive 6s. 5d. a bushel f.o.b. from No. 9 pool strengthens the case. Growers like this plan because it is to operate for five years and not merely for one year. They appreciate also the fact that provision is made for the extension of the scheme beyond five years if desired. The working farmer who has no political axe to grind is not being misled by high prices ruling in the export market at the moment. He has been through bad times and does not want to experience them again. There are a few farmers who object to sharing the excess over the 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. with a stabilization fund. It will be returned with interest when prices recede, as they will all too soon. I believe that every Labour member in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments will support the bill. The Labour party believes in the organized marketing of -primary products. To members of the Australian 1 Country party I say that the days when they could pull the wool over the eyes of the farmer are ended. Their frantic efforts to stimulate opposition to the measure will influence only a handful of growers. Members of the Australian Country party realize how , barren is their record in this House; and the farmers of Australia are also well aware of that fact. I am not alone in supporting the bill. I have already said that 95 percent. of wheat-growers support it. After contacting wheat farmers in my electorate I am convinced, as any one who visits the wheat-belt and sees the acreage being sown will be convinced, that the great majority of growers support the Government’s plan. The following, which I quote from The Wh eatgrower of the 21st June, 1946, does not make very pleasant reading for honorable members opposite : -
” SAVE STABILISATION FROM POLITICAL WRECKERS “
PRESIDENT ON UNION POLICY.
“Are we to have stabilisation or are wo going to allow it to be wrecked because it is being made into a political football?” asked Mr. Col will, W.G.U. General President, at the W.G.U. meeting at Forbes on Saturday, May S.
Our Lifelong Object. “We have talked stabilisation ever since we came into existence, and I feel that we are now on the verge of accomplishing if,” said Mr. Colwill. “If we can get it on the Statute Book we can congratulate ourselves that we have achieved what we have been fighting for. We can, of course, set to and amend it once it is on the Statute Book,” he said, “ but once it is there no Government would dare to take it off.”
Mr. Colwill insisted” that the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation must take responsibility for the Plan in its present form. “ Neither the W.G.U. nor the Federal Governmentcan be blamed for the present plan,” he said, “but definitely the A.W.F. The minutes of the A.W.F. meeting on 10th and llth December,” (a copy of which was shown to those present) “show that the Government has given, after makingalterations demanded by the A.W.F. practically exactly what the A.W.F. asked for. Then, the A.W.F. at its Perth meeting - a much less representative one than that held on December 10th and 1 1th - bring out a totally different plan.
Mr. Colwill further pointed out that there is a mistaken idea abroad about the 50 per cent. which goes into the equalization fund. “ That money remains our money,” he said. “It goes into a trust account and sooner or later we receive it.” “A Political Football”
At the Forbes meeting Mr. Colwill finished his remarks on the stabilization plan by pointing out that there was never a better time for the institution of a stabilization plan, when prices are so high; and with a further plea that we do not allow it to become a political football.
Mr. Colwill has asked that the following be reproduced from the Victorian “ Wheatgrower” (30/5/46). It is part of a statement by Mr. G. C. Marshman, of the Victorian V.W. and W.G.A., a growers’ representative on the Wheat Quality Committee (and apparently a member of the Country Party).
Mr. Marshman said:
A Political Move “ The regrettable feature of the whole opposition is that it is a political move more than anything else.
At the last Country Party conference I listened to the debate on the wheat stabilisation plan when the resolution was carried asking for 5s. 2d. per bushel at growers’ sidings, and heard Mr. McEwen’s eloquent speech in favor of this motion.. As I listened my mind went back a very few years and I reflected on a visit that I had to Canberra with a deputation from the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers’ Association, when we requested the Menzies-Country Party Government to make a payment of 3d, per bushel to growers on wheat that had been delivered to the 1939-40 Pool. During that visit, we interviewed Mr. Cameron, the then Minister for Commerce, and were in no way encouraged by his attitude towards us.
Met Mr. McEwen
Whilst on this visit we met Mr. McEwen in the corridors of Parliament House and made known to him the purpose of our deputation, and requested his support. The reply we received was: “ I refuse to embarrass the Government on such a matter at this time.”
It so happened that a short time previous to this visit to Canberra, the Association had written to all Victorian members of the Federal House requesting that each should declare his attitude towards the Association’s effort for just treatment for the growers, pointing out in this circular that, if support was not offered, we would be compelled to pledge our support to a candidate who would foster our claim.
Mr. McEwen did not send a reply, but, while members of the deputation were in his room at Parliament House, Canberra, he referred to this circular, which was on his table, and angrily remarked that he resented such an approach to him and would ignore the circular and the body that sent it.
Now he poses as the growers’ champion.
Another Country Party member interviewed on this occasion was SirEarle Page and. when he learned the nature of our mission, calmly and deliberately told us that we would need to decrease our wheat production, and, to augment our returns from wheat-growing turn to dairying.
He instanced several eases from his electorate of Grafton, where men had gone in extensively for dairying on river frontages and made good.
A Political football.
I am citing these cases in order that growers may see very clearly that the guaranteed price as set out in the present scheme is being used as a political football. The Government of the day when our wheat pool was brought into operation, and a Wheat Board appointed, did not seek the assistance of growers, but made the appointments from firms and trading companies who had long been making money out of the growers.
The explanation given was that it was desired that the ordinary channels of trade should not be disturbed more than was absolutely necessary.
I find it particularly difficult to reconcile the men that were and the men that are, and would warn growers to be most cautious about taking action to destroy a substance whilst they go out to chase a shadow.
In reply to a question at the Country Party conference as to whether there was a limit to the quantity of wheat on which the Federal Country Party would guarantee 5s. 2d. per bushel Mr. McEwen replied : “ No Treasury would sign a blank cheque.” Now supposing the total crop to come under the guaranteed price, which as far as Mr. McEwen is concerned, is 100,000,000 bushels. What is to be paid for the balance?
It has been whispered that the amount for which the Federal Liberal-Country Party would be prepared to make a guarantee would be 150,000,000 bushels.
This is a further point to which growers should give attention before accepting the lead now being offered to them by some loudly spoken politicians.
It is easy for those members of Parliament, whoseparty is not in power, to criticise the action of the Government of the day, but when we sought financial aid for the wheat industry by way of a guaranteed price from the Liberal-Country Party administration,we were told that the money was not available.
Now we hear members of these parties declare that the grower is entitled to receive 5s. 2d. per bushel f.o.r. at country sidings for a 10-year period.
I hope that growers will remember these statements, and, if a Liberal-Country Party Administration should be brought back to power before 1956, see to it that these promises arc fulfilled.”
How honorable gentlemen opposite squirm when they feel the lash. The arguments of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) like a tub with a hole in it, will not hold water. When he spoke on this bill last week, he did not promise the wheat-growers anything. The poisonous propaganda of the honorable member for Indi will not be accepted bythe wheat-growers. The honorable member has been pushing the poison cart through my electorate. It will avail him nothing. I know the wheat-growers. I have been among them, not only in my electorate, but in the electorate of the honorable member forRiverina (Mr.
Langtry), and I know that not, only will all Labour members representing country constituencies retain their seats but also that their numbers will be added to at the forthcoming general elections. The people know that the members of the Labour party are honest, sincere men. We are here not to play politics, but for the good of the nation. But our opponents play political football with every measure brought before this chamber. Their one fear is that they will not hold a seat in the next parliament. I am convinced that at the next general elections the peoplewill deal with them even more effectively than they did in 1943.
– I make no apology for addressing myself to this bill. A man who represents aconstituency like Warringah and is a lawyer, as I am, must at least have the same right to express his views on the wheat industry as the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) whose speech was divided, like Gaul, into three parts. The first part, which was supposed to deal with the bill, but did not, he read rather badly. The second part consisted of some comment made by a member of some organization or other. He read that equally badly. The third part was the worst of the lot, because it had nothing whatever to do with the bill. It is a strange thing that, with the exception of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), no Labour members claiming to represent rural constituencies have dealt with the bill, and the honorable member for Ballarat merely skated around it. I propose to deal with the measure. I consider that the bill fails utterly to solve the problem that it purports to solve. It is entitled the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill, but honorable members opposite have forgotten that it purports to stabilize the wheat industry. It provides a part of a scheme under which the Commonwealth Government and the State governments are seeking to stabilize the wheat industry for five years. The principal provisions of the scheme are to licence production, to licence those who may receive the wheat produced and to provide a minimum price for wheat f.o.r. during that period. Yet honorable members opposite who represent wheatgrowing constituencies do not seem to be in this chamber. There are only five here to listen to this important debate.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Warringah in order in stating a deliberate untruth about the number of members of this side that are present?
– That is not a point of order.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Warringah said that only five members who occupy seats on this side of the House were present.
– I said that only five honorable members opposite representing wheat-growers were present.
– What is the point of order?
– The honorable member for Warringah is the most offensive member of the House.
– There is no point of order.
– It is a poor commentary upon honorable members opposite claiming to represent wheat-growers that so few of them should be present when this important bill is being debated. The bill involves important principles. The first is the assumption that wheat production costs will remain static for five years. No more fundamentally stupid assumption could be made. The billpretends to stabilize wheat prices on the basis of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. for five years. I shall hot deal with the equity of that price at this stage, but shall have more to say on that aspect later in my speech. At the moment, I propose to deal with a fundamental economic fallacy, namely, that, in a world of rising costs, the cost of production in the wheat industry will remain constant for a period of five years. One does not need to be a wheat-farmer to realize that that it not a sound foundation for any legislation. In order to show that that is not my view alone, I propose to direct attention to a report by Professor Copland, whom the Government has appointed as Australian Minister to China. In a report on economic conditions in the United
Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada, Professor Copland, writing in his capacity as Economic Consultant to the Government, draws attention to the fact that in those three countries stabilization schemes are based on the possibility of changing costs. I should like the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to correct mo ifI am stating wrong premises when I say that the Government’s scheme is based on the assumption that costs will remain static. The guaranteed price is not to vary for the whole five years for which the scheme will operate. In his report, at page 15, Professor Copland states -
In Great Britain, the Minister for Agriculture has announced a four-year plan under which a review of the financial position of representative farms will be made each. February in consultation with representatives of the farming industries. On the basis of this review, and after discussion with the representatives of the industry, a guaranteed price will be announced which the Government will maintain for the products of the industry concerned for that year . . .
It is important to note that the method of guarantee is to a certain extent subject to frequent adjustment according to’ changing conditions.
In other words, he emphasizes the clear economic truth that we are living in a world of economic change. Any sound stabilization scheme for the next five years must have regard to the fact of changing costs. Professor Copland’s report continues -
It is not the intention of the Government slavishly to adopt any figure that may be arrived at merely on the basis of costings.
Costs must be a prime consideration.
– Everyone knows that.
– I wonder whether it was known to the members of caucus when this bill was presented for approval. If so, the Government’s inability to . express itself clearly in legislative langauge is revealed in this measure, because it makes no provision whatever for any variation should costs rise, as they assuredly will. I pass on to quote from Professor Copland’s report in relation to the United States of America -
In the United States of America the arrangements for guaranteeing prices are much more complicated, though to a large extent automatic in their operation. . The Stabilization Act of 1942 as amended in 1944 provides that no maximum price shall be established for farm produce below a price which would return to the producer the higher of the following: -
the parity price or comparable price;
the highest price received by producers between 1st January and loth September, 1942 ….
Parity is itself the ratiobetween farmers’ costs and prices in the period 1909-1914.
It will be seen that in that great country also costs are recognized as a determining factor in fixing prices. In Canada a board purchases all the wheat that is grown. The price paid for the wheat depends upon conditions which vary from time to time. In Canada, also, costs are a prime consideration in fixing prices. During this debate we have heard many political speeches, but not much has been said regarding the real problem with which the bill seeks to deal. Regarding the approach to the problems of the wheat industry in this country, Professor Copland said -
It would also be desirable to emulate the British or Canadian plan of fixing the prices from time to time according to changing conditions, and using the guaranteed price mechanism to promote the distribution of resources among the farming products which were most actively demanded. It is sometimes contended that a system of guaranteed prices has the effect that the control of production is required if it is to be successfully operated. That is not necessarily true. If the administration . is flexible, it is possible to vary the minimum price in such a way as to encourage or discourageproduction according to the relative demand for the different products. This would still leave price as a principal determinant of output in the long run, but would offer farmers the opportunity of transferring from the less to the more profitable of farming operations with a reasonable assurance that they would get a minimum income in the process.
An examination of the report makes it clearthat in the three countries that I have mentioned costs are a fundamental consideration in determining what the guaranteed price of any product shall be. It makes clear also that in the opinion of the Government’s economic adviser a similar course should be pursued in this country rather than a policy which limits production. Both these principles have been ignored in the scheme of the Government, and I desire to know the reason. Although there are only about 60,000 or 70,000 wheat-growers in this country, they constitute an important section of the community. Moreover, whatever is done in connexion with the problems associated with the wheat industry must have its influence on the economy of the nation as a whole. As one who does not represent a wheat-growing community, but has taken the trouble to study Professor Copland’s reports and recommendations, I want to know why his recommendations have been disregarded, and why the scheme submitted to us makes no provision whatever for any variations of costs during the next five years. Will any honorable member say that he believes that costs will remain static for the next five years? No one with a pennyworth of sense would deny that costs will move either upward or downward - probably upward. Further, will any honorable member deny thatthis stabilization scheme proposes to place . limits on production? It purports to fit in with a State scheme, under which I have no doubt wheat-growers will be required to apply for licences, which will be granted only if certain instructions regarding production be observed. I desire to refer to that particular type of legislation, and I speak as one who has had some experience from the legal stand-point. It is not a new kind of legislation. In respect of quite a number of primary products, we have State legislation which provides that no producer shall engage in the production of a certain commodity unless he has been granted a licence, and usually, the framework of the State acts is to grant or refuse a licence without showing cause. I have known many occasions when men have been compelled to follow a policy, which is not in legislative warrant, merely because administratively they have been told that, “ Unless you do this, you will not be given a licence “. The Government should not ask this Parliament to consider a bill which cannot be considered except as a part of a total scheme. We do not know what the State legislation will contain. For my part, I voice my strong objection to all legislation of this kind. I have only one part of the picture. The Government informs the Parliament : “ This is the Commonwealth bill “. I ask : “ May we see a copy of the State legislation, because it must he a part of the one scheme? “. We do not know what it may be. The State legislation may contain important and objectionable features of legislation, and this Parliament will not have an opportunity to express an opinion about them.. Because this scheme assumes static costs in this industry over a period of five years, I assert that the plan must be condemned.
The second ground of objection may now be considered. This is a stabilization scheme, and it includes the 1945-46 crop. It is well that the growers should know the legal position. When their crop was taken from them - this fact cannot be disputed - they were entitled in accordance with the terms of the Constitution to fair, just and proper compensation for their wheat. What does the Government propose to do now? It does not. deny that the wheat is worth more,- hut proposes to take away the* additional money by way of a levy. I cannot imagine anything more immoral than seeking to justify a wheat stabilization scheme by taking out of the pockets of the wheat-growers the money which really belongs to them. I shall repeat- the proposition, because the. Government should reply to it. My proposition is that, when ‘the 1945-46 crop was taken from the wheat-grower, he automatically had a claim against the Government for full and proper compensation for his product. That cannot be denied. The claim will -not be satisfied, but by an indirect means and perhaps by means which might even be challenged in a court of law, the Government says, in effect, - “ It is true that that was the amount of money which we should have paid to you, but now we propose to impose retrospectively a charge upon it so as to support the stabilization scheme in future”. What moral justification can there be for that act? Yet every honorable member opposite who has spoken in this debate has not faced that problem.
– That is not true. I dealt with it.
– The honorable member for Warringah was not here.
– I have been in the House during the whole of this debate. If the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) did deal with the problem, he failed to make his meaning clear.
– The honorable member would not understand even the clearest explanation.
– That type of comment will not help save the issue. Let us examine the proposition. I shall repeat it for the benefit of the honorable member for Forrest. When the wheat was taken from the farmers, they were entitled to full compensation for it. No one can deny that. I contend * that, morally, they are still entitled to it.
– Yes, and the growers made a bargain-
– They are still entitled to it. What the Government seeks to do is, by a levy operating retrospectively - and retrospective levies are in any ‘ event objectionable - to take from the grower a portion of the compensation and put it into a stabilization scheme. Those objective facts cannot be disputed. It is a wholly immoral process. If the Government seeks to stabilize the industry, its scheme, should operate from now. The Government has no right to apply it retrospectively. If this policy be defensible, the Government has as much right to go back to 1943-44 and impose a levy for that season. But its plan cannot be justified at all.
The third ground on which this bill should be condemned is the limitation of production, which is. inherent in this scheme and must be contained in the State legislation. I make no comment now upon whether this scheme will find constitutional support, having regard to section 92 of the Constitution. I note that clause 10 of the bill purports to give to the board, for the purposes of the export of wheat and wheat products, complete control over the interstate marketing of wheat. I assume that the State legislation will seek to take complete control over infra-state’ wheat. By those means, the Government seeks to cover the whole of the wheat field. But I point out that, not so long ago, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) declared that in the absence of an alteration to section 92 of the Constitution, the Commonwealth could not effectively deal with any primary product. He made that statement not once but many times. His views are contained in official publications of the Government. Therefore, I should like to hear the Government attempt to reconcile its plan with the view expressed by an eminent jurist that a stabilization scheme such as this is legally incapable of being carried into effect. I express my’ objection to any scheme which has as its basis the limitation of production, and I support all that was said by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. - Archie Cameron) on that aspect.
In this debate, it has been said that the Government undertakes a re’al risk. I shall examine that statement. It is a wise policy for honorable members to. speak to the bill, and not around it. We shall see what risk the Government takes. I venture to say that it will be obvious that the Government bakes no risk at all, but that the wheat-farmer will not only stabilize his industry at his own expense, but also give a hidden subsidy to all who consume bread and use wheat for fodder! Honorable m embers” on this side of the House have been accused of not doing anything to assist wheat-growers. I am impelled to say, as the Minister who was administering the Treasury at the time when the Menzies Government introduced its wheat stabilization scheme, that a comparison of the two plans will show that our scheme, if it were now operating, would be infinitely better for the wheatgrower than this Government’s plan. I shall cite a few facts, because I believe in keeping to facts, instead of indulging in general political speeches. ‘The price of wheat has risen by 6s. 6d. a bushel since 1940. The stabilization scheme of the Menzies Government in 1940 was based upon a price of 3s. 6d. a bushel compared with 10s. a bushel, its present export value. The present Government’s 1946 scheme guarantees,, as I shall show, only 2d. a bushel extra for the 1945 crop, compared with the 1940 stabilization scheme, notwithstanding increased costa of production in the meantime. As I shall also show, that small apparent advantage is more than counterbalanced by the greater amount of money which, under our scheme, would have gone to stabilization. This is the .Government’s scheme: For the 1945-46 crop, the wheat-farmers are to receive 6s. 7d. a bushel for 123,000,000 bushels,, a total of £40,487,500. There is to be a tax of 2s. 2d. a bushel on 63,000,000 bushels, a total of £6,825,000, which is to be paid into the stabilization fund. In short, the total to be paid to the farmers and to the fund will be £47,312,500. Under the 1940 stabilization scheme introduced by ‘a government of which I was a member, which was criticized bitterly by honorable members opposite to-night without any regard to the facts, this would be the position: The export value would be 10s. a bushel, less a maximum of ls. a bushel wheat tax, leaving 9s. a bushel. The guaranteed price, plus half the excess, namely, 2s. 7d. a bushel, would be 6s. 5d. a bushel, compared with 6s. 7d. a bushel. On 123,000,000 bushels, at 6s. 5d. a bushel, the farmers would receive £39,462,500, and the payment into the stabilization fund on the same quantity, at 2s. 7d. a bushel, would be. £15,8S7,500, a total payment to the farmers and the fund of £55,350,000, compared with a payment under the present scheme of £47,312,500. Those figures are either correct or incorrect. I claim that they are correct. If any honorable member disputes them, let him show me where they are wrong. Therefore, under the 1940 scheme the wheat farmers would have received 2d. a bushel less in cash, but their payments and equity would be £8,375,000 greater than under the present proposal. Therefore, what grounds are there for honorable members opposite to direct criticism against those who Sit on this side of the House? In the long run, the 1940 scheme would give infinitely more protection to the wheat-grower. There are some figures which I should like to have recorded in Hansard. I take as my basis figures which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) gave to this Parliament, and I place them under a number of headings. First, I assume that for the next four years the value of wheat on the export market will drop progressively by ls. a bushel a year. That is a fair assumption; because, as the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has pointed out, Canada has been negotiating with Great Britain on the basis of an export value of 6s. od. a bushel over four or five years. The figures that I now give show the average to be 5s. lid. a bushel. Therefore, the assumption that I make is a fair one, namely, that the export value will drop from 10s. a bushel to 6s. a bushel in the next four years. The record of present prices, taken in conjunction with what occurred after the last war, and the negotiations that have’ taken place between the Governments of Canada and Great Britain, as reported, give fair support to those figures. The crop value, based on the export value of the present crop, that is the 1945-46 harvest, and the four succeeding crops, would be £61,500,000, £55,350,000, £49,200,000. £43,050,000 and. £36,900,000, a total crop value for the whole period of £246,000,000. How much is the wheatfarmer to get? He is to receive a total of £182,287,500. There is a deficiency of £63,712,500 over that period. Where does that go? Of the total, £21,525,000 goes into’ the stabilization fund, and £42,187,500 goes to subsidies to consumers and stock feeders. How, then, can one justify this as a stabilization scheme? That is about the last term that I would apply to it. A scheme. of this description which extracts from the wheat-grower the large amount of £63,712,500 cannot be justified. The amount may be less than that ; but it would not be les3 than £40,000,000. The farmer gets only one-third, and the balance goes towards the payment of subsidies in respect of those who consume bread and those who use wheat for fodder. I say, first, that this is not a stabilization scheme; and secondly, that it is a mere pretence to claim that the Government will run any risk at all. Indeed, the Government has worked out what seems to me to be nothing but a political programme, and proposes to make the wheatfarmer pay for himself and others for a period of five years, during which, there can be no doubt whatever, the scheme will more than pay for itself. The scheme cannot be justified, on these grounds: first, the payment of 5s. 2d. a bushel will be insufficient, for we cannot assume that the coat of production will remain static ; secondly, the inclusion of the 1945-46 crop is morally without justification; thirdly, the adoption of the principle of limitation of production is objectionable from an economic viewpoint; and fourthly, the extraction of-“ nearly £64,000,000 from the wheat-grower imposes a very heavy burden upon the wheatgrower.
I have said enough to direct attention to what appears to me to be the principal features of the bill. The matter upon which I feel most strongly is the need for the Government to ‘ justify before this country the principle of extracting, in the guise of a tax, what really belongs to the wheat-grower. I can only say, as. a lawyer, and as one who considers the principle involved, that if property be taken from a man the one clear obligation is to pay him what it is worth. Even though it may be justified legally, there is no moral right to seek to extract from him a substantial portion of the real value of his compensation by means of a tax. If that be correct, there is no end to which this manoeuvre, or this intrigue - if one may use that expression - can be employed; because it simply means that one can take from a person wheat or any other property, and then, in flagrantdefiance of at least the spirit of the Constitution, introduce in this House a bill imposing a levy, thus preventing him from getting that which the Constitution clearly states he is entitled to receive. The bill should be withdrawn, as it does not provide for a proper and sound stabilization scheme. The wheat-farmers would indeed be infinitely better off during the next five years if allowed to go oh a free market. The scheme is designed simply as ,a pre-election dodge to enable the Government to say to the farmers “ We have given you a guarantee of 5s. 2d. a bushel for the next five years”. It is clear that there is no chance whatever of the Government during that period being called upon to pay one penny in support of the scheme.
.- In his concluding remarks, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) told us why he is- opposed to the bill. He desires the wheat of the farmers to be thrown upon the open market. He is running true to form, for he is an agent of the wheat speculators, who, of course, desire to make fortunes out of wheat by “farming” the farmers in future, as they have done in the past- He has made various statements which, typical of a lawyer, were intended to deceive. I suppose that as a lawyer he believes in the sanctity of contracts, yet he says that the No. 9 Pool should not be included in the scheme. The official minutes of the Conference of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation held in Sydney at the close of last year show that the federation decided that, provided the Government met the full request it was agreeable to the 1945-46 harvest being taken into the scheme. This is clearly demonstrated by the following extracts from the minutes of the conference -
Mr. Nock moved, Mr. Roberton seconded ; “That the1945-46 crop be eliminated from the plan, and the plan to commence from 1946-47.”
After debate Mr. Diver moved, Mr. Maycock seconded - “ That the question be put.”
This motion was lost.
The matter was then adjourned until all other questions were considered. This indicates the matter was fully discussed.
After reconsideration, Mr. Maycock moved and Mr. Marshman seconded - “ That subject to the Government accepting (c) (as below) we raise no objection to (a).” (quoted hereunder). (c)”The guaranteed floor price to be 5s. 2d, f.o.r., with participation in the additional return where the crop concerned realized more than 5s. 2d.”
If the honorable member recognizes the sanctity of contracts, he will have to agree that the 1945-46 crop is being taken into the pool by agreement with the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, which represents the growers. The honorable member for Warringah also spoke about supporters of the Government who represent wheat-growing constituencies not being present in the House as often as they should. That criticism comes with poor grace from the honorable member, because he spends less time in this House than any other honorable member.
– I adhere to what I have just said. He quoted extensively from statements by Professor Copland. It is not long since he called that official a bureaucrat, but he is evidently prepared to hold him up as an authority when it suits his purpose. A regrettable feature of the plan under consideration is that the Government and its supporters are accused of making party political capital out of the wheat stabilization scheme, but that charge is unwarranted. Honorable members opposite are attempting to make political capital from the scheme and the spearhead of the Opposition to the proposal is the honorable member forIndi (Mr. McEwen). He is well supplied with half-baked facts by Mr. John Teasdale.
– Very telling facts.
-I recognize his knowledge of the wheat industry, but he is so blind politically that he cannot refrain from twisting facts in order to supply political ammunition to the honorable member forIndi. For the last six months the wheat-growers have been subjected to an intense barrage of propaganda from the Australian Country party and its political friends. The whole campaign demonstrates that we should not place too much reliance on party names. One would assume that members of the Australian Country party would be champions of country interests, but they are not. They are the champions of the wheat speculators.
– Now the honorable member is “ on the stump stuff “.
Mr.MOUNTJOY.- The honorable member does not like the truth. If his party were given its proper name, it would be called “ The wheat speculators’ and the wheat agents’ party “ or “ The henchmen of the vested interests party “. The vested interests party is, of course, the true name of the Liberals. During consideration of the Wheat Marketing Bill, which was before this Parliament in July, 1930, Senator Sir John Newlands, of South Australia, made this remark in the Senate -
It appears that the majority of the farmers are of the opinion that the bill is a step towards the socialization of production and wealth, which honorable senators on this side of the chamber do not support . . . It can reasonably be said that one objectionable feature of this proposal is that many men who have spent their lives as buyers of wheat will be deprived of their occupation.
The second reading of the bill was defeated in the Senate by fifteen votes to twelve, and amongst those who voted against the measure were Senators Colebatch, Lynch, Pearce and Kingsmill, of the United Australia’ party, and Senators Carroll and E. B. Johnston, members of the Australian Country party. The latter party then, as now, protected the interests of the wheat speculators. The bill defeated at that time had been introduced by the Scullin Government to guarantee -4s. a bushel at sidings, and the action of the honorable senators associated with the Australian Country party resulted in the farmers receiving only 2s. 4$d. ‘a bushel at ports. The crux of the fight was that the plan provided for a compulsory pool, but that did not suit the representatives of the wheat agents in this Parliament, who are fighting the present plan now. When I hear the speeches from the Opposition benches, or read the propaganda in the press of the wonderful things that are to come, if by an unlucky chance the Opposition should be returned to power, I immediately ask why these things were not done during the years when the parties opposite were in office. We hear promises to-day by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) that if his party were returned to office the farmers would receive 5s. 9d. a bushel at growers’ sidings, and -from the honorable member for Indi that the price should be ys. 2d. a bushel at sidings, but those prices are offered when the Opposition is no longer in office. What did the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) say on (he subject of the wheat industry when he was Prime Minister in 1939? On turning to Hansard, volume 162, at page 1738, I find that on the 29th November of that year he said - 1 am able to announce that we have arranged not only that the amount of the advances w-1 he increased to 2s. 10id. a bushel for bagged wheat, less rail freight, and 2s. 84d. a bushel for bulk wheat less rail freight, thus giving an average return of 2s. fid. a bushel on bagged wheat at the country siding, but also that the advances will be paid in one amount as soon as practicable after “delivery of the wheat.
After explaining how finance could be arranged, he went on to say -
I most earnestly say to honorable members that these financial proposals represent not only a fair also a generous approach to the problem by the Government.
On the following page he is reported as saying-
We cannot continue to provide large sums of public money to support wheat-growers while they go on .producing unsaleable grain, such a procedure would be demoralizing and unsound.
I am well aware that grain to-day has a ready sale, but prices will not remain high for long. In two or three years’ time they will be much lower, and what will be the position .of the growers then if the present opposition happens to be in power, and no stabilization scheme is in operation? We should remember that the Leader of the Opposition has said that, if his party gets into power again, it. will repeal the Commonwealth Bank Act put through Parliament by thepresent Government, thus taking control of the country’s finances out of the hand of the Parliament. We should remember, that after the Scullin Government proposals for the payment of a guaranteed price for 4s. a bushel had been defeated, it attempted to arrange for the payment of a smaller amount, but the Commonwealth Bank Board refused to make the money available. If the Commonwealth Bank were again to be put under the control of such a board as then existed we might find that, at some time in the future, when finance was most needed in order to assist the wheat industry, it would not be available.
When the Opposition was in power, it bad an opportunity to do the things which it now says the present Government should do. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was a member of - a former government, as were other members of the Opposition. Mr. Marshman was quoted by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) on .the past activities of the honorable member for Indi, and they are in startling contrast to his words to-day. Times have changed, and the government of which the honorable member for Indi was a member is not now in power, but the men who were members of that Government have not changed. Growers should take care lest they lose the substance for the brittle promises of the Opposition, and find themselves in the position of Hanzel and Gretle who, because they were hungry, walked happily into the witch’s house made of sugar and cake, only to find that the cake was simply a lure- so that they might enter and provide a meal for the witch.
Attempts are being made by wealthy and influential sections of the community to wreck the Government’s scheme by a well organized and. expensive propaganda campaign. It has never been suggested that the scheme should be discarded, but the persons of whom I speak are seeking to throw the wheat industry once more into the political arena. The present Government is concerned, not only with making Australia prosperous to-day, butalso with ensuring that it shall be prosperous for our children after us. Of what use would it be for us to live in , luxury to-day if our children were to starve to-morrow? For many years- past, governments have considered methods of stabilizing the wheat industry, and thus, gradually, the present wheat stabilization scheme has taken shape. The Government is seeking to benefit the primary producers, not for this season only, but for future seasons as well. Before the five-year period expires, we hope that arrangements will be made to extend it. For my part, I hope that the stabilization plan will become permanent. Wheatgrowers to-day are operating under abnormally favorable conditions. They are assured of high prices for all that they can produce. The starving countries of Europe will take all the wheat that Australia can grow and ship, and will pay almost any price for it. Every farmer is sowing as great an area as “possible, in the certain knowledge that Europe will continue to take all that he can supply ‘for the next two years. That is the position to-day, but what of the years to come, when the present urgent need has been satisfied, and conditions are back to normal? We all know the effect of over-production - a slump. We also know that we cannot expect the present price of 10s. 4d. a bushel, bulk basis, f.o.h. Australia, to continue for very long. Prices will fall. One has only to study the record of prices during the twenty years between the two wars in order to see how they have fluctuated. The disastrous effects of such fluctuations must not be allowed to be repeated in Australia or in any other country.
The wheat industry, as is well known, is fundamental to the welfare and stability pf Australia, and should be the subject of informed discussion rather than of prejudice. I should like members to keep clearly in their minds during this debate the importance of the industry as a whole. I well remember that,” when I was a railway employee, I took as much interest in the rainfall and in the market for primary produce as I do now as a member of Parliament. I knew that, in a good season, a lot of wheat would be moved, and when wheat went down to the coast, ether ‘ commodities moved up into the country. When prices for primary products were good the farmers were able to buy furniture and other necessary articles. .As a railway employee I knew that when the farmers were prosperous the entire community was prosperous. We should not concern ourselves with the immediate benefit which the present high export price may bring to Bill Smith or Sam Jones - who may want to retire next year, and would therefore like to see high prices so that high land values would enable them to sell out at an advantage - to the ruin of the purchaser who would have to meet high capital charges on a falling and insecure market. Such conditions are not good for the industry as a whole. When a policy is being framed we cannot seek to meet every individual farmer’s need. We should ignore abnormal benefits to the individual, and concentrate on doing the greatest good for the many. There is a danger that very high prices will stimulate wheat production in both exporting and importing countries. With the mechanization of the industry, world stocks of wheat can be built up in a very short time. Canada has recognized this danger, and has provided for a maximum export price as well as a minimum export price. This maximum price will make London’ parity. We are receiving more than London parity to-day, because our wheat is being sold on markets east of Suez, but this state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely.
There arc some who would be prepared to gamble away certain stability for the high export prices ruling to-day, as was done after World War I., and this led, ultimately, to the ruin of the industry. The Government, in offering the present plan, is asking the wheatproducers in their own interests, and in the interests of the nation, to forgo a shortterm advantage in favour of a long-term stability of income. Some honorable members, aided by the press, have been loud in their condemnation of the plan, and have spared neither expense nor trouble to damn it; yet they now shed crocodile tears of sympathy with the wheat-farmer. They are condemned by the manner in which they treated the industry for many years. The abandoned farms, the broken homes, the number of men with specialized knowledge who were forced to leave the industry because of the action of the Australian Country party and Nationalist governments, and their unwillingness to do anything for the industry, except to make promises which were easily broken and which caused ruin to great numbers of growers, and brought others to the verge of ruin, rise and confront them. In my own electorate I know men who sold their wheat for as low as ls. a. bushel, and in one disastrous season, when caught by low prices and dry conditions, were left broken and penniless. . Growers have little to hope for from the Opposition if this bill is defeated. Truly, wheat has been described-as political dynamite. If members opposite were one-half as zealous for the industry as they are in protesting their opposition to the Government in the vain hope of winning some of the so-called border-line seats, then the outlook of growers would be bright indeed. This scheme is like a joint savings bank account for the farmer and the Government, except that, though they both pay into the account, only the farmer can draw money out of it. The Government guarantees to pay in if the fund diminishes, truly an ideal arrangement from the farmers’ point of view. Just prior to coming here for these sittings of the Parliament, I found in my electorate that, owing to the propaganda issued by antagonists to this scheme, which was featured in the press, the farmers were being misled into believing that they were being cheated of their just dues. That is a pity. We have all suffered the effects of broken promises in the past. We should judge on performances, not promises. This Government did a great deal for the people over the difficult war years, and it will do even more, if it be given the power. The Government has introduced the wheat stabilization plan as a result of representations made by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, which, as honorable members know, is a council composed of representatives of various State organizations of wheatgrowers. Agitation for organized marketing of wheat and a stabilization plan dates back to the last war, when compulsory pools first handled and marketed the Australian wheat crops on an organized “basis. Growers, who at first did not like legislative control of their industry, were firmly convinced by the end of World War I. that organized marketing of -wheat was a payable proposition, and they strongly pressed the then Nationalist government for a. continuance of compulsory pooling. This was refused. No doubt the Nationalist party gained much financial support from people who had made fortunes out of farming the farmer, and therefore it was not prepared to agree to such a measure. Immediately following World War I., an effort was made to organize marketing of wheat through the medium of voluntary pools established in the various States. This was only partially successful because the scheme did not provide a minimum price guaranteed by the Government. Prices for wheat were good at the conclusion of that war. They reached as high as 8s. 10½d. a bushel in 1919-20, but it was not long before they commenced to slump heavily. In 1921-22 the price had dropped to 5s. 5£d. By 1931 prices had reached the low level of 2s. 4£d. a bushel at- ports, which meant that the grower was receiving somewhere in the vicinity of ls. 9d. a bushel at country sidings. Growers, of course, had not lost sight of their desire for pooling through legislative action, and these low prices merely strengthened the agitation.
For ten years prior to World War II., prices generally fluctuated between approximately 2c. and 3s. a bushel at sidings. During that period growers were consistently asking the Commonwealth Government for organized marketing of their product, and, just as consistently, they were being turned down by the Nationalist party, which by this time had changed its name to the United Australia party. When World War II. broke out, the wheat merchants, as in the case of World War I., found themselves unable to finance the industry, and consequently their United Australia party friends, under the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), were told that it would be all right for them to take the necessary steps to control the marketing of wheat during the war. It was arranged, of course, that the wheat merchants should have strong representation on the Australian Wheat Board, and that the Government should provide the finance. Indicative of the attitude of the Menzies Government towards the grower is the fact that on the first Australian Wheat Board there were only two growers’ representatives on a board of nine. Merchants, of course, had strong representation. Indicative also, of the attitude of that government towards growers was the fact that its guarantee to wheat-growers was only 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b., equal to approximately 3s. a bushel net bagged basis at growers’ sidings, with a first advance of 2s. 6d. a bushel. This guarantee was for a marketable crop of 140,000,000 bushels, and in the first year, with a marketable crop of 154,000,000 bushels the growers were left with 14,000,000 bushels without guarantee or protection.
When the Labour Government assumed office it changed the composition of the Australian Wheat Board, giving the growers seven elected representatives on a board of nine and, of course, banishing the merchants from the board. This had been asked for by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. Next, the Government raised the guaranteed price to 4s. a bushel bagged basis net to the grower at country sidings for the first 3,000 bushels produced, and gave him a guaranteed advance of 2s. a bushel at sidings for the remainder of his production. Later, the latter figure was raised to 3s. a bushel at sidings for overquota wheat. Over 70 per cent, of the production came within the 3,000 bushel quota -and carried the 4s. guarantee. For the 1945-46 crop the Government raised the price over the whole crop to 4s. 4d. a bushel bagged basis at sidings as a first advance. The position was then that the grower was receiving a guaranteed first advance of ls. lOd. a bushel more, w heu he delivered his wheat, than he was able to get from the preceding government. In those circumstances it is very clear why growers strongly favour the continuance of organized marketing in the post-war period, and fear being thrown back to the tender mercy of the wheat merchants and speculators. It is quite clear that the Government’s decision to give a guarantee of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports for all wheat grown in the next five years is not only in accord with the Labour party’s platform and policy, but that it is also in accord with the cherished objective of wheat-growers’” organizations. The plan will require joint Commonwealth and State action, and in this respect has already received the endorsement of the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers and the Australian Agricultural Council. The necessary State legislation has been drafted and approved by State governments, and will shortly go before the various parliaments. There is much speculation as to what will eventuate when that happens.
Sir Louis Bussau, first president of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, and now chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, warned growers some weeks ago that State parliamentary representatives would now feel the full efforts of the opposition to the post-war stabilization plan. This has been echoed by other recognized leaders of the wheat industry. The representatives of the Labour party in the Federal and’ State arenas may be expected to give the measure their wholehearted support. They have always supported wheat-growers’ claims for justice. The danger spots for the plan appear to be from the Conservative majorities in the Legislative Councils of State parliaments, in which Labour i3 outnumbered by the “combined forces of the Liberal and Australian Country pasties. It will be recalled that when the Scullin Government in 1930 introduced the Wheat Marketing Bill in the Commonwealth Parliament, a combination of United Australian party and Country party members defeated the measure in the Senate, and thus left the industry totally unprotected during the period of low prices which, followed. Foi the harvest which followed, Western Aus-, tralian growers received 2s. 4Jd. ports, equal to ls. 6£d. a bushel at sidings. There is room for speculation as to whether. history will repeat itself on this occasion.
In recent years considerable mechanization has taken place in primary producing industries, and in this respect thewheat industry “ is no exception. ‘ Its potential production in the post-war years is assessed at from 180,000,000 to- 200,000,000 bushels yearly. There is every reason to believe that mechanization which envisages the use of heavy tractors and large machines makes that figure quite a probability. This is clear from, the fact that from the 1945-46 harvest approximately 124,000,000 bushels were marketed, despite the drought conditions in Victoria, South Australia and part of New South Wales. The average quantity of wheat marketed over the twenty years before’ the war was less than 130,000,000 bushels.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture recently indicated that under the terms of the International Wheat Agreement, Australia will be able to export annually 90,000,000 bushels, and has to keep a reserve of 40,000,000 bushels. About 60.000,000’ bushels will be required for home consumption. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) took exception to any control over . production. As an ex-Treasurer, the honorable gentleman must know that it would be impossible for any government to continue to guarantee the price of any primary- product unless it. had some control over production. I. understand that Western Australia would require a quota of from 30,000,000 to 33,000,000 bushels, which is above the average in that State for the last few years. In 1929, production of wheat in Western Australia totalled 52,000,000 bushels, but that was achieved by bringing into production wheat lands which were too remote to be economic propositions when prices fell. Those lands have since gone out of production, and are now devoted to stock raising. A quota of. 33,000,000 bushels would meet Western Australia’s needs at present It is felt that growers will aim at the production of this quantity. The price for five years will be a minimum of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports for every bushel grown and marketed, and this, will give growers confidence in the years ahead. The plan can be extended under the provisions of the legislation.
I am pleased to note that the Minister has -announced that he has recommended to Cabinet that a committee be set up to examine the cost of production. Every honorable member will realize that this will be a difficult task. In 1934 the government of the day set up a royal commission under Sir Herbert Gepp. That commission cost about £50,000, and after extensive research, extending from one end of Australia to the other, and finding that costs ranged from ls. Id. to 19s. lid. a bushel, brought ‘in a finding that so far as could be determined the average cost of’ producing wheat was 3s. 6d. f.o..r. ports. In the light of history therefore, it can be seen that the proposed committee will face a formidable task. Nevertheless, the attempt should be made. As an industrial worker, looking at this problem of wheat stabilization based on a guaranteed price and a compulsory pool, with all the natural sympathy that one worker feels for another, I believe that the industrial worker would never expect to buy farm products below the cost of production. He no’ more wants the farmer to be exploited than he wants to be exploited himself. Just as he fights for a fair share in the wealth that he produces, he is prepared to help the farmer fight for a fair, share of the wealth produced from the soil. He does not want the farmer to exploit him, and he does not want to exploit the farmer. The flour-user of Australia from 1933-34 to 1942-43 contributed £11,529,957 in flour tax. This tax, as honorable members are aware, was for the purpose of assisting the wheat industry. If it. was fair for the people to pay 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat consumed internally, when wheat was being exported far below that figure, in nine out of those ten years, it is fair that those same people should be able to buy wheat at that figure now when wheat has a higher external value. As a matter of fact, such provision was made in the original flour tax legislation passed in 1933. That legislation provided for an excise tax on wheat exported when the price rose above 5s. 2d. f.o.b. ports, the money collected from the tax to be paid to the miller so that the price of the wheat’ used by him would remain constant. I have spoken to many farmers on this point, and all have stated that they consider the flour tax legislation valuable to them. . Apparently, the Opposition parties are capable occasionally of devising progressive legislation. That legislation was opposed by ‘the Labour party on the ground, that it was the duty of the Government to guarantee a fair price to the wheat-farmer out of Consolidated Revenue rather than impose an unfair tax on the bread of the workers. However, that legislation has proved of benefit to the wheat-growers. ‘ One very fairminded member of the Country and Democratic League of Western Australia, in fact, the only fair-minded member of that organization I have had the pleasure of meeting, told me that fawners did not object to people getting wheat below export parity to-day as they had paid above export parity in the past, but they did object to stock feeders getting cheap wheat now, as the stock feeders did not help them in the critical years. There is something in this argument; but we should not lose sight of the fact that pig, poultry and milk producers were at that time receiving prices far below production costs, even after buying wheat at ridiculously low figures. I can remember eggs, for instance, being hawked from door to door for 5d. a dozen. Nevertheless, the argument has force, and it must be admitted that if this scheme was to wind up after five years, and in those five years wheat continued at a price above, or just below, the figure of 5s. 2d. a bushel, the wheat-farmer would in fact have been carrying his fellow primary producers. This is another reason why 1 want the scheme placed on a permanent, basis. The wheat-farmer is assisting his brother- producer to-day when his sky is blue, but should that sky be grey tomorrow, it will be the stock-feeders’ turn to lend a helping hand.
During the war years the primary producer has benefited by subsidies to the amount of ‘£20,000,000, and has shared in price stabilization subsidies which cost £13,000,000 more. What would be the effect on our economy if we allowed wheat to be sold internally at 10s. 4d. a bushel ? The price of milk would rise. Eggs could no longer be sold at a minimum of ls. 7d. a dozen. The price of meat would rise. The superphosphate and cornsack subsidies would have to be abandoned. The price of bread would rise. The market gardener would have to obtain more for his products. In fact, the prices of all commodities would rise. The workers, already struggling to live, would demand higher and higher wages in order to exist.. The cost of farm machinery, already costly, would increase. Th fact, our prices structure would be smashed, and we would ex’perience spiralling inflation. One has only to look, at the United States of America to see what the lifting of price control means. In eleven days prices have risen by 11.1 per cent., including butter, from 4s. per lb., to 7s.- 6d. per lb., beef liver from 4s: 9d. per lb. to Ss. 6d. per lb., coffee up to 36 per cent., maize 47.8 per cent, Rents have also headed into the “wild blue yonder”. Does the Leaderof the Opposition counsel this action?
Other things can be done to make the prices received for our primary products overseas more valuable to Australia. For example, we should be exporting and importing goods in our own ships. The story of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers during and after World War I. is worth repeating, but I do not intend to dp so at this juncture, except to say that that line cut the cost of freight, saving Australian primary producers many millions of pounds, and was also a sound business investment before it was given away to a not-so.-noble English lord by the Bruce-Page Government. That action was just another crime against the Australian people in general, and the primary producer in particular, by a Country party-Nationalist government. I ask the farmers, in their own interests, to study the history of this unholy alliance, to remember the brittle promises, and examine in the cold light of reason the specious and plausible arguments put forward to-day by these selfstyled champions of the primary producer. I also ask the farmers never to lose sight of the fact that unless growers are protected, their position, with greatly increased world’s production which will follow high prices, will be unenviable after prices recede in the world’s market, as we can expect in a few years.Wheatgrowers can be assured that the Australian Labour party will whole-heartedly support the stabilization plan in all States. The real danger will come from anti-Labour forces, who appear determined to force the wheat trade back into the hands of the merchants and speculators.
There is a great deal at stake also for other sections of primary producers. It is very obvious that by killing the wheat stabilization plan speculators in foodstuffs will also deal a death-blow to the aspirations of other sections of primary producers, who desire organized marketing on a Commonwealth-wide basis. Producers of eggs, potatoes, onions, and dairying and other products are as much in this fight as is the wheat-grower. If producers in those industries are wise, they will ensure that their representatives in the Parliament give the wheat stabilization bills in bothFederal and State spheres their whole-hearted support. They will do so if they recognize that while it is wheat’s turn to-day, it will be that of potatoes, eggs, onions and other products to-morrow. Those anti-Labour members of this House who are attempting to wreck this measure may expect that primary producers everywhere will resent their action when they recognize its full implication. Theref ore I support the bill. I know that it will be passed. The only danger in the way of carrying out the plan lies in the Australian Country party supporters in the Legislative Councils of the States. The farmers should tell them in no uncertain terms that unless they support the passage of this plan through the Legislative Councils they will be cast out at the polls when their turn comes.
Debate (on motion by Mr.. Turnbull) adjourned.
Real Estate Transactions: Property near Wingello.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed - .
That the House do now adjourn.
. -I apologize to the House for keeping it at this late hour, but the case that 1 bring before it is a matter of urgency, because it affects a young “ digger “ who is unfortunately caught in a “ jam “ in a matter over which he has no control. He has been threatened with legal action. I want the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to give his case further consideration. It concerns an ex-serviceman who was discharged medically unfit in August, 1944, after nearly three years’ service, including 27 months in New Guinea, where he contracted malaria and dermatitis. He was experienced on the land before the war and desired to re-establish himself in rural pursuits. He decided to purchase a block of land at Wingello, in the Goulburn district. The vendor who represented the land as being suitable for both grazing and agriculture recommended that a valuation be made by a valuer at Goulburn. It subsequently transpired that the valuer was a friend of the vendor. The father of the exserviceman acted as his agent, because his son was recuperating. The father went to the English, Scottish and Australian Bank to arrange finance to complete the purchase. He was prepared to offer his own home as collateral. Believingthat there would be no difficulty in arranging the finance, he signed a contract to purchase as agent. A few days later the English, Scottish and Australian Bank said that its valuer and inspector had condemned the property as utterly useless for either grazing or agriculture and has recommended that, if a loan was made, the land should not be taken as even part security. The bank officials said that the valuation made by the vendor’s valuer was not a true onebut was misleading and abnormally inflated. The father then went to the Rural Bank to see if he could get some consideration, probably believing that the information that he had received from the English, Scottish and Australian Bank was not correct. Eight days later an official of the Rural Bank told him that its valuer and inspector had ‘ also condemned the property and had assessed its value at about £2,000. He was told that no money would be lent on the land, as it was worthless at the price at which it was valued. He was advised to obtain a fresh valuation .from some one who was a stranger to both parties. He wrote to the shire clerk at Moss Vale asking him to recommend a valuer. ‘ He obtained a valuation of £3,882 for both the land and the home on it from the man recommended. Remembering his experience in attempting to arrange finance, he submitted the valuation obtained from the independent valuer to the delegate to the Treasurer. The delegate refused to sanction the transaction on the 13th July, I 945, in these terms -
Receipt is acknowledged of your application for consent to purchase property known as “Spring Valley,” Parish of Wingello, Shire of Wingecarribee.
It is noted that the sale price is £0,050 and the valuer’s valuation is f 3,305, plus £577, total £3,882.
In view of the large disparity between the sale price and the valuer’s valuation, consent cannot be granted on these figures:
The vendor was advised by the purchaser’s solicitor that the transaction would not be proceeded with under the following clause in the contract: -
If for any reason the said consent of the delegate is not forthcoming this contract shall be void and all moneys paid- hereunder, including the deposit shall be refunded in full.
The vendor refused to take this as final. The purchaser then got in touch with the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, whose agrostologist condemned the property for grazing and agriculture and expressed the opinion that the whole area should go back to forest and bushland. I dare say the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) knows the district.
– I know that country very well.
– Meanwhile the vendor is pressing for completion of the purchase. The solicitors for the vendor informed the purchaser that the delegate to the Treasurer was prepared to re-open the transaction at £6,050, provided an assurance was received from both parties that they desired to proceed with the contract. The purchaser advised the delegate that he did not wish to proceed with the contract and he received a reply that his view had been noted. The purchaser then interviewed the deputydelegate and asked for the return of the papers. He also asked if the application could be re-opened without his consent. The deputy-delegate replied that it could not and would not be re-opened without the purchaser’s consent, and he .made a special note on the file to that effect. One month later the solicitor for the vendor stated in a letter that the delegate had re-opened the matter and had given his consent to the transaction at £6,050. Notwithstanding the fact that the delegate had said that he would, not re-open the matter without the consent of both parties, the matter was re-opened. The purchaser had not been notified that repeated requests to the delegate that the matter be discussed had been refused. Now the delegate will not see either him or his solicitor, or give any information on the subject. The purchaser approached the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), who got in touch with the delegate. He was advised to approach the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. Mr. Wilkins, of that Department, advised that the delegate _ did not have- power to reopen the matter without the consent .of the purchaser because his first refusal rendered the contract void, and that a new contract would be required if the case was proceeded with. The department was then instructed to go no further in the matter because the purchaser was told that it was claimed that the valuation submitted was false and that the original valuation of £6,050 was the true value. The purchaser went to the Attorney-General’s Department taking copies of the various valuations with him. The department had not received permission to re-open the matter, and it was restored to the lists when the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) went overseas. The purchaser received from the Attorney-General a letter indicating that the Prime Minister had called for a report. The letter from the purchaser to the Prime Minister contained the following : -
Even in this report to you from the delegate he states that “ approval would be granted to the transaction at the contract price of fB.0-50 provided an assurance was received from both parties that they desired to proceed with the contract”.
The advice given to the Prime Minister was that the matter would not be reopened without the consent of both parties, but that undertaking had been violated. The matter has been re-opened on the basis of the original offer. The purchaser received another letter from the Prime Minister dated the 13th June, 1946, in which he was told -
This particular transaction has been closely reviewed and while you have received reports which support your opinion that the contract price was excessive, the department has evidence which shows that the purchase price was fair and .reasonable, as required under the Economic Organization Regulations.
Because of the difference in the’ valuation figures submitted the proposal was given special attention by the departmental valuers and advisory panel. In addition the property was inspected by a departmental valuer fully conversant with the district. The concensus “of opinion with which I hold, is that the application has been correctly determined and I regret, therefore, that I am unable to. accede to ‘your request.
The only deduction that can be made is that there must have been a conspiracy between the valuers of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank, the Rural Bank, the Department of Agriculture through its agrostologist, and the. independent valuer, because all of them said that the land was practically worthless. Later, I received a further letter from the Prime Minister in which the following paragraph appeared: -
Previous representations have been made not only by Mr. Morris, but also by the right honorable H. V. Evatt, and on each occasion the transaction has been reviewed. I do not think it is necessary to recapitulate the details of the case but I am attaching for your information a copy of my letter of 13th June addressed to Mr. Morris. It has been suggested that the consent issued should be rescinded but I am unable for two reasons to accede to this, first -there is no power under the regulations to withdraw a consent once it has been issued, and secondly evidence before the department confirms that the contract price is reasonable.
It will be seen that the department shifted its ground.
– The honorable member will admit that the man did sign a contract.
– Yes ; but the contract contained a clause which made it- null and void if the delegate to. the Treasurer refused consent. That was the* opinion given by the Attorney-General’s Department. Consent was refused and therefore, it is clear either that the delegate is wrong or that he has been a party to a conspiracy. [Extension of time granted.] Pressure has been brought to bear on this young man, and he is in danger of losing his deposit of £150 which is a part of his deferred pay.
– His trouble arises from the fact that he signed the contract. .
– The AttorneyGeneral’s Department, has said that the contract is null and void. This young man is being forced into litigation which he cannot afford. If there is no power to withdraw consent once it has been issued, there should be no- power for the delegate to act without the consent of both parties. The delegate said that the matter would not be re-opened without the consent of both parties, and surely ah officer of his standing should honour his undertaking. Should he fail to do so, there should be an inquiry. That a grossly misleading valuation was made is supported by officials of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank, the Rural Bank, as well as the agrostologist of the Department of Agriculture and an independent valuer. This young man can be saved the heavy costs of litigation if the delegate is forced to keep his original promise. In my opinion, the Treasurer should give further consideration to ‘this matter, and ensure that justice shall be done to this exserviceman. The right honorable gentleman should insist that the official should honour his original undertaking. But he re-opened the case, and the Treasurer asserts that he can not do anything because consent has been given. I contend that the official should not be permitted to’ reverse his original decision.
– He cannot alter the provisions of the contract.
Mi-. HARRISON.- The official has re-opened the whole case. If he had adhered to his refusal, the contract was null and void. The fact that he has reopened the case - gives new life to the contract.
– No, not necessarily.
– The honorable member for Wentworth desires to blame the Government for this man’s own foolishness.
– No, I blame the Government because its officer stated categorically that he would not re-open the case without the consent of both parties, and he has broken his undertaking. In my opinion, the Government should not support an officer who is not prepared to stand up to his obligations in matters of this kind. I have stated the case fairly and clearly, and ask the Treasurer to see that justice shall be done in the interests of a young man who is trying to re-establish himself and who may lose his deferred pay because of a reversal of opinion by a government official.
. - in reply - This difficulty arose because the ex-serviceman signed the contract and agreed to purchase the property at the stipulated price. If he had not done so, the trouble would not have occurred. The original mistake, if there be a mistake, is associated with the action of the purchaser in signing the contract. However, I shall arrange to have the matter examined.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 107.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth purposes -
Lidcombe, New South Wales.
Raglan near Bathurst, New South Wales.
Regents Park, New South Wales.
Defence purposes - Cape River, Queensland.
Postal purposes - Hawker, South Australia.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1 946 - No.6 - Canberra Community Hospital.
House adjourned at 11.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Re-establishment : Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen ; Taxation of Subsistence Allowances.
n. - On the 26th June, I promised the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that I would obtain answers to the following questions, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Because of the use of the word “ assistance “ it is assumed that the questions asked by the honorable member have reference to financial assistance by means of agricultural loans up to £1,000, which can be obtained by approved applicants. The purpose of these loans generally is to enable the ex-serviceman to purchase plant and machinery, stock, feed, &c, and to effect improvements. They are’ used also to augment capital already possessed by the applicant and enable him to acquire small properties and to pay off mortgages. The position as at the 1st July, 1946, is set out hereunder-
Questions 4 and 5 were referred to the State authorities, but with regard to the latter they were unable to give, with any degree of accuracy, the number of applicants actually in occupation of properties. This is attributed to the lag which does take place very frequently between the date on which a loan is approved and on which the applicant makes use of it, the delay occasioned by necessary legal matters which, at times, must be completed before the purchaser can gain occupancy, and to reasons of a personal nature affecting the applicant.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The question of exempting this class of allowance has been considered by the Government, but it has been found impracticable to grant such exemption while contributions are levied on earnings and other income of a like amount.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Government sold 4,500,000 bushels of wheat to New Zealand in January last at the price at which all other sales were being made at the time. This was done in consultation with the Wheat Board and with its full knowledge. The Government undertook to meet New Zealand representatives at a future date on the subject of future sales. This meeting has not yet taken place.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following answers : -
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The” Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : - 1. (a) No. (6) Yes. (c) Yes. (d) Stocks are and have been for some months past, sufficient to meet requirements on the present rationed basis of consumption.
Pre-war importations of tea reached 50,000,000 lb. Imports now, including tea for the services, cannot exceed 47,000,000 lb. - Australia’s allocation from the Combined Food Board. This . allocation includes a special allowance of 12,000,000 lb. to Australia at the expense of neutral nations in order to maintain the existing 2-oz. ration, and this allowance would be withdrawn if rationing were abolished. It must be remembered that demand in Australia has increased compared with pre-war years owing to increased population and also the extended use of tea throughout industry as a result of the establishment of industrial canteens. A press statement on the above lines was made by the Minister for Trade and Customs on 5th April last.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
t asked the Prime Minister,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– In each month of the financial year 1945-46 the amount received from the sale of war savings certificates was greater than the. amount expended in redeeming certificates. The Treasury has no record of weekly sales and redemptions.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the aggregate amount of internal treasury-bills for war (1939-45), existing as at (a) the 30th June, 1945, and (b) the 30th June, 1946?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is a reasonable approximation, based on the comparable figures of £33,000,000 given in respect of the financial year 1944-45, of the arrears of tax as yet uncollected in respect of assessments for prior years which had not been issued at the 30th June, 1946?
– Sufficient information is not available at this date to enable the arrears of tax unassessed at the 30th June, 1946, to be estimated with any degree of accuracy, but the amount could possibly be £50,000,000.
Postmaster-General’s Department : Delivery of Second-class Mail Matter.
y.- On the 19th June, the honorable member for Darwin ‘ (Dame Enid Lyons) asked the following question : -
In view of the delays that are occurring in the delivery of second-class mail matter, by reason of existing transport difficulties, will the Prime Minister state whether the Government will consider the possibility of converting suitable service aircraft and of making them the property of the Postmaster-General’s Department, for the delivery of mails to all outlying parts of the Commonwealth, including Tasmania ?
As the honorable member is aware, the Government has set up the Australian National Airlines Commission to be its instrument for operating such government air services as may be established. The Government’s policy is to give air conveyance only to mail matter on which a surcharge has been paid, although several departures from this policy have been made, notably in the case of firstclass mails between Tasmania and the mainland, which are carried without surcharge in both directions. Consideration will be given to the carriage of first-class and possibly also second-class mails without surcharge when the commission has established a reasonable network of services, but the present cost of such carriage would be prohibitive.
War Risk Bonus.
y. - On the 20th June the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked for information regarding the payment of the war risk bonus to coastal seamen working ships north of Townsville.
The present rates payable to Australian seamen are -
Twenty-five per cent, on interstate and intra-state ships trading south of Townsville and Port Hedland (15 per cent, in Spencer and St. Vincent Gulfs).
Thirty-three and one-third per cent, for interstate and intra-state ships trading south of these points.
Fifty per cent, for overseas ships going north of Townsville and Port Hedland from last Australian port on the outward voyage to first Australian port on. the homeward voyage.
The position overseas at present is that in America, which has a rather complicated system of bonus, the total bonuses payable have been reduced but increases of wages have been granted which compensate in part for the reduction. In. Great Britain the monthly bonus of £10 for men and £5 for boys still applies. In New Zealand also the war risk bonus is still being paid to seamen. The Government has given consideration on several occasions to the subject of the war risk bonus, and it is likely that an alteration of the conditions governing payments on the Australian coast will be made contemporaneously with the abolition or reduction of such payments by the United Kingdom, New Zealand and other British governments.
Mr. FORDE - On the 26th June the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked a question concerning exports of zinc dross, which, he suggested, were jeopardizing the production of zinc oxide.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now informed me that the Department of Works and Housing controls supplies of zinc oxide. Inquiries of that department have shown that available supplies of zinc dross are not at present sufficient to meet domestic requirements for production of zinc oxide. It is understood that some supplies of zinc dross and zinc dust are being accumulated with a view to subsequent exportation. The Minister for Trade and Customs has therefore issued instructions to his department that steps are to be taken forthwith te control exports of these commodities pending consideration of the question of imposing an export prohibition on them.
t asked the Minister representing the ‘ Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
Woollen Textiles: Labelling of Imported Cloth.
e.-On the 10th July the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) asked a question concerning legislation requiring the labelling of cloth.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now informed me that action ha/ been in course for some time with a view to bringing into force in all State’s uniform legislation relating to the labelling of textile goods. Supporting action by the -Commonwealth has been sought by the States in respect of imported textile goods. This has been agreed to so faT as woollen goods and goods containing wool .are concerned. As regards other goods, there are good grounds for apprehension that the imposition of the comprehensive marking requirements proposed may adversely affect Australia’s prospects of obtaining essential supplies from overseas.’ This aspect is .being considered and, pending determination of the matter, action by the States to proceed with enactment of the uniform. legislation has been’ deferred.
ey. - Un the 26th J une, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle rage ) asked .whether I would consider releasing for publication the report presented to the Curtin Government on the treatment of malaria among troops and methods for the prevention of the spread of the disease in Australia.
Consideration has been given to the suggestion that the report of Sir Earle Page should be printed either wholly or in part. As indicated in my interim reply, the report was prepared by Sir Earle Page at the request of the Advisory “War Council. In common with reports by other eminent medical men, it proved of .great value during the war in reducing the incidence of malaria amongst our troops. It is true that the report contained a general discussion on malaria, but its special value was in connexion with the treatment and prevention of malaria during the war years. Now that the war has ended, the value of the report from that stand-point has, for the time being at least disappeared and afterfull consideration the Government is of opinion that the Minting of the report at this stage would not he justified.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 July 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460716_reps_17_187/>.